by and anonymous friend of Leah Larson.
This article first appeared in the fall 2007/5767 issue, issue #13.
Imagine a big kosher food store on Friday afternoon. Tons of Jews quickly getting their last minute needs for Shabbat. Definitely the best spot for a Jewish beggar to stand.
Life for this poor man depended on the generosity of others. Not even smart enough to fill out welfare papers, this man could never get a job. He couldn’t even accept my mother’s invitation to join us for the
Shabbat meal; he said he wouldn’t remember the way back home.
So every Friday, without fail, he was there outside the store, and I’d make sure to give him the extra change in my hand. Not something I ever bothered to think about. Just a fact of life – he needed money and I had some change in my pocket, so why not share it?
Then, one week I came out of the store with change ready in my hand, but he wasn’t there. Rumors said the manager told him to leave, because people thought he was chasing away customers. No more collecting money. We only had a few weeks to worry about where he’d get money for food. Soon enough the beggar was seen again – this time standing outside the bakery.
The bakery is where we get our challah for Shabbat, find Shabbat guests, and run into people we haven’t seen in a while as we wait in the long line to pay for our challah.
It was a Friday afternoon and I had just put a really good looking cake in the oven, when I realized something.
“Moooooooom!!! Did anybody buy challah?!” I panicked.
“Challah?” My mother turned to my father. “Did anyone buy the challah?’’
My father glanced at his watch. Shabbat was coming in pretty soon. “The bakery closes in five minutes. I have some other things to prepare for Shabbat, anyone else able to run and get the challah?”
So, I slipped on my shoes, grabbed some money, and ran. The store was almost empty when I got there. I picked up the last few challahs, bagged them, and went to the counter.
There were two others in line. In front of me was a fancy lady. She looked like upper-class-know-it-all,richie type. The type you don’t want to mess with, and not just because of the very long pointy high heels. The dude behind me was some influential executive who looked like he’d had a long day. At the counter was the manager; everyone else had already gone home.
The lady put her goods on the counter and paused. The kind of pause that is supposed to imply that she is about to say some wise words. So the manager also paused and looked at her with a wide open ear.
“You know,” she began. “That beggar standing outside there, he’s taking away your customers. He hasn’t taken a shower in yeeeeaaars, and with his dirty clothing he bugs every customer on their way out. People won’t want to come here again.”
The manager nodded.
I was shocked.
The guy behind me added, “Yeah, he was kicked out of the kosher food store for just that reason.”
“Yup, maybe you’re right,” The manager said thoughtfully. So thoughtfully he scared me. I mean, if they kicked the poor guy out from the bakery, then where would he go?! He couldn’t go back to the food store, and I couldn’t think of anywhere else. He couldn’t get a job; he’d tried that so many times already. Poor guy. My mind was racing like crazy…
I was stuck right in the middle of that nasty conversation. Little me in between all these important people. I knew I would feel guilty for the rest of my life if I didn’t speak up, so I opened my mouth and let some words spill out. “You know,” I said, trying hard not to imitate the egotistic tone of the lady in front of me. “G-d put these type of people in the world so that we could do a Mitzvah.”
Silence. Embarrassed silence. Oh, it’s okay, I gave them full rights to be embarrassed. How could they have even thought of getting rid of him? He had no other way of getting money for food. Our Rabbis taught us that G-d made poor people so that we could act G-dly and help others too- so we could learn to share and do good for others, shower or no shower.
The lady finished paying and went off to stare at the nice looking cakes. As usual, on the way out of the store I stopped and gave the beggar all my change and wished him a good Shabbat. Rushing off to get home in time to take my cake out of the oven, I still managed to notice the fancy lady out of the corner of my eye, as she handed the beggar a twenty dollar bill. He smiled big, and so did I.
Life is loaded with adventures, and this definitely wasn’t the biggest of them, so I forgot about the whole event.
Shabbat mornings I go to a shul in a different area to run a kids’ program. It’s a long walk and I usually walk alone. On the way, there is a big wide busy street to cross. I cross it often, so it really isn’t much to me, but my mother always worries. “Make sure to look all ways while you cross! Only walk across when you have the right of way…!”
Walking across this Shabbat, I wasn’t really thinking of my worried mother, but I was definitely being safe. The light showed that it was my turn to walk, and there were no cars coming my way, so I walked. Really, there were no cars coming my way. No cars till I was halfway across the big street. Then, out of nowhere it came at full speed. I didn’t know where it came from or how it got there… But wherever it was coming from, the black Jeep was zooming at full speed at me, and it didn’t look like it could ever stop.
So I just looked at it in shock. I watched it come, zoom up to me and… bump. Just bump. Somehow with that speed it was flying at, the Jeep managed to stop, and just bump into my leg, and drive off.
So I continued on my way. My leg just hurt a bit, and that’s how I arrived in shul that day. By the end of the day my leg didn’t even hurt anymore and it was just another little thing that happened in my day.
That night was a weird one. I went to bed at a normal time, I wasn’t overtired or anything. But I had a dream. Like those weird dreams you hear of in stories. The dream was of the poor beggar. He said to me, “You should know that the Jeep was supposed to kill you. But because of the charity that you did for me, it didn’t.”
I woke up and laughed at myself. I must have been thinking about it too much during the day. I mean, yeah it’s true that the Torah says charity saves from death, but, whatever, it was just a dream.
I would’ve just left it at that, but the next night again, he was there in my dream and he said the same words again. “You should know that the Jeep was supposed to kill you. But because of the charity that you did for me, it didn’t.” 3