|February Purim 1999|
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The Importance of Helping
By Robin Keller
A young Rabbi from the East Coast decided that he wanted to go to an area in the United States that did not have a Jewish community. He wanted to open up a Jewish community center and synagogue. He traveled to the Southwest and began having services in his home.
After several months of having services in his home he realized that he must build a synagogue to house the various services needed for prayer, instruction and social events. He tried raising money by having many parlor meetings, having his friends and acquaintances bring their friends, but the vast amount that was required was not forthcoming.
One day, a man knocked at the rabbi's door and asked if he could come in. The rabbi let him in and the man began talking about the rabbi's plan to build a synagogue. The strange man asked the rabbi if he could contribute to the building plan. The rabbi said that of course he would be happy to accept a donation from him.
He said that he wanted to donate $2000 to the building fund, but when he looked for his checkbook he realized that he did not have it with him. He begged the rabbi's forgiveness and promised to return the next day.
On the morrow, the man returned and apologized again. He sat down and wrote a check for $2500, saying that he decided to give more. The rabbi thanked the man, but the man went on to say that he would send him a check each month. Needless to say, with a supporter like this the rabbi was able to build a fine synagogue and open a school for children, and give adult education classes at night.
This relationship continued for several years until the man, a bachelor, suddenly took ill and died. His mother took over his very successful business and noting that her son had directed his accounting department to send a check to the rabbi each month, she decided that if this meant so much to her son, she would continue supporting the rabbi's synagogue. She even added to the large sum as a remembrance of her son.
A year after the son's death, the rabbi spoke about this man. How did it come about that a man, who with seemingly no connection to Judaism came out of the background and helped create such a successful institution as the synagogue was today?
The rabbi explained that he asked the man this question and that the man explained to him thusly:
"Like every other Jew, I took a trip to Israel. My tour arrived at the famed Western Wall, the wall that is the last remaining part of the holy Temple in Jerusalem. Like every other Jew that arrives there, I took a piece of paper and wrote my name on it and rolled it up and put it in a crevice between the stones. I didn't know what else to do there, so I decided to ask the fellow standing next to me, a religious looking fellow, with long side locks. He was reciting Psalms from an old weathered book. I watched this fellow, waiting for him to pause so that I may approach him, but he just continued reciting his psalms with such simple beauty and devotion. I stood there taken back at this young man, swaying with tears streaming down his cheeks.
"The tour guide called us and we had to leave. I never got a chance to speak with that young fellow. The rest of the tour, I was haunted by the image of that young man, who said his psalms with such piety and purity. I said to myself that the Jews need more people like him.
"When I returned home I decided that I wanted to insure that more people like that fellow at the Western Wall would be amongst us in the Jewish people. So when I heard about the rabbi and his project I decided to support it."
The rabbi now continued speaking. Some day that young Jewish man who said his psalms with such devotion will go up to heaven. There the angels will take out a book in which all the good deeds that this young man did is recorded and they will read it to him. They will get to a part where they will say that he helped build a synagogue, and a Jewish school for children, and an adult education institute, and a Jewish social hall in the South West of America. The young man will interrupt the angels and disagree and state that he can not accept responsibility for this. He never left Israel.
The angels will tell him, true, you never left Israel, but one day when you were saying your psalms, you said them with such devotion that you influenced another Jew to donate money to build a institution, that without this donation, it would never had been built. Therefore, the angels will tell him, you are responsible for this institution being built. Therefore you are to receive a reward for this in heaven.
We do not always know what influence our action has on others in this world. Just being an honest G-d fearing Jew is all that is necessary to influence another Jew to do a good deed.
from theFebruary Purim 1999 Edition of the Jewish Magazine