A big, burly man visited the pastor’s home and asked to see the minister’s wife, a woman well known for her charitable impulses.
“Madam,” he said in a broken voice, “I wish to draw your attention to the terrible plight of a poor family in this district. The father is dead, the mother is too ill to work, and the nine children are starving. They are about to be turned into the cold, empty streets unless someone pays their rent, which amounts to $400.”
“How terrible!” exclaimed the preacher’s wife. “May I ask who you are?”
The sympathetic visitor applied his handkerchief to his eyes. “I am the landlord,” he sobbed.
The vast majority of Americans make charitable contributions why? According to a new study at the University of Oregon, people give Charity because it feels good. They do so either because they enjoy the feeling of giving and the positive effect it can have on them, the prestige and honor gained by it or most simply because they feel it is right.
In tough economic conditions though people’s contributions have dropped because it is uncomfortable and financially overburdening to continue their philanthropic tradition. How can I give in these tough times seems to be the silent argument.
In this week’s Torah portion of Vayeishev, Joseph finds himself imprisoned in a foreign land after surviving an attempt on his life from his own brothers, enslavement and betrayal by an Egyptian official by no fault of his own but due to corruptness and conspiracy. Although Joseph retained full justification to become depressed, shun his fellow prisoners and sulk about his harsh prison sentence he did something extraordinary.
Not only did he not disregard his fellow inmates but he took the initiative and sensitivity to befriend and comfort others. Although in a prison environment where most are down he asked “why are you downcast today” paying keen and supersensitive attention to realize that these officers were more downcast than usual and tried to comfort them. Through this Joseph became second in command of Egypt and saved the world from starvation.
Rabbi Joseph I. Shneerson, reknown for his unconditional love for every Jew, explained the moral of the episode of Joseph was not that he became the second to most powerful man in Egypt but that he was able to use that power to help more people and save humanity from starvation.
Like Joseph, our love for our fellow Jew should not be dependent on a structure or situation but something we follow due to our respect to G-d and humanity. It is not for our own personal benefit that we give but out of our most basic love for another person. To be human on the most basic level is to give.
We must stop focusing on ourselves and realize that every single person at every single moment in every single situation is here for a purpose – to make the world a better place. And the fact that we contain more power, prestige or money than another person is only for the purpose to wield that advantage to make the world a better place by helping another person or to do another good deed.
Every single person contains within him a little flame and contains a mission to add a little light where darkness prevails. And to do that we need not be a Rabbi, CEO, or politician. Like Joseph, regardless of spectrum of influence we can always smile to someone, we can give a child encouragement or just show someone that we care. It’s not what we give but that – and how – we give that counts. All it takes is one act of goodness in any situation that can have the greatest impact. And good will always follow because good always leads to more good.
Moshe Scheiner of Boulder, CO is studying in Yeshiva in Brookyn, NY.