Torah Thinkers Forum

Running The Gauntlet

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One of my favorite neighborhoods in Yerushalayim is Geula, where mostly Chareidim (devoutly religious people) live. I may be predisposed to be partial to Geula, as it was the first neighborhood I lived in 45 years ago when I came to study for a year in Yeshiva at age 19. My good friends, Aron Horowitz and Shlomo Zalman (Red) Green, and I shared a room on Rechov Tzefania in the summer of 1969 before my yeshiva studies started. So besides being very familiar with it, Geula brings back memories of my youth. Some of the shops (and probably people) are the same today as they were way back then. 

I stopped by in Geula this afternoon to pick up some Sefarim that I had previously ordered, and while there shopped for some extra food for Shabbat. Friday afternoon (as it was today) is a particular busy time in Geula, and one needs sharp elbows to make one's way in and out of the local stores which are jam packed with men and women buying supplies for Shabbat. 

But one facet of life in Geula seems to be never changing, no matter what year, month or day it is. And that is the ubiquitous people, men and women, young and old, with outstretched hands asking for charity, whom one passes as one makes his way down the five or so blocks on Rechov Malchei Yisrael's commercial area. Some of those panhandlers seemingly have been there for ages, and are almost like old friends. I fondly remember Yudi Wiener's mother who always sat on the same spot of the street (on the right side coming up from Kikar Shabbat) near Rechov Yona, who collected for poor brides to be. Over the years I always enjoyed stopping by and chatting with her when I would visit Israel, and especially Geula.

So today, as is my custom, I prepared a handful of shekels, in loose change in my hand, to be ready for 'Running the Gauntlet', as I mentally consider it when I an about to pass by all the collectors. I gave one shekel to each person looking for a donation, received a welcome blessing from them, and returned a message of Shabbat Shalom.  

Some people have told me that they resent being accosted by all "the beggars." They wonder if they really are fulfilling the Mitzva of Tzedaka when they give money to them. They ask, "is the whole business of asking for money a scam? Do they really need the money? Will they be using it for cigarettes and other unhealthy purposes? Why isn't the government providing these people with all they need?" 

My thought process is a little different. I think that it is not up to me to verify the veracity of need of each and every one there. If someone asks for help, then I give them a little something. It won't make any difference to my overall bank account, and they seem to appreciate my small gift. I also want to inculcate in myself the trait of being a giver, not of someone who passes by and looks the other way. 

It would be great if there were no beggars asking for money. That would hopefully mean that everybody who previously was wanting, now had what they formerly lacked. But until that day, I will (IY"H) continue to hand out loose change to everyone who asks, remembering to thank Hashem that I have what to give and am not needy.

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COM_EASYBLOG_GUEST Saturday, 21 October 2017
Last updated on: 10/21/2017
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