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Heaven Isn't Far Away

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Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD
    and he will reward them for what they have done.
— Proverbs 19:17

There is a Jewish folktale set in the early 19th century in Eastern Europe about a Hassidic rabbi and his dedication to charity. One day a skeptic arrived in the rabbi’s city to see for himself this rabbi and what the fuss was all about. Every Friday morning, the rabbi would simply disappear. He wasn’t in the synagogue or his home. The skeptic asked the rabbi’s followers where their leader went. They replied, “Where else but to heaven? The people of the town need peace, sustenance, and health. Surely our rabbi is in heaven pleading our cause.”

The skeptic decided to find out for himself. One Thursday night he hid himself in the rabbi’s house. Before dawn, he heard the rabbi emerge from his bedroom dressed as a peasant. Then the rabbi pulled out an axe and began to chop wood outside in the darkness. The rabbi brought the wood to a run-down cottage, not knowing anyone was following him.

When he got to the door of the house, the rabbi knocked on the door. An old, poor, and ill woman opened the door. The disguised rabbi explained that he had cheap wood to sell her so that she would be warm for the winter. “But I have no money,” the woman replied. “I will give it to you on credit,” the rabbi said. “But how will I repay you?” the woman wondered. “God will find a way to see that I am repaid,” answered the rabbi. “But who will light the fire; I am too ill,” the woman protested. “I will” said the rabbi, and he did.

After witnessing all this, the skeptical man decided to become a disciple of this particular rabbi. When he would hear other followers explain that their rabbi went to heaven on Friday mornings, he would add “and even a little higher.”

The story teaches us the importance of giving charity and its centrality in the Jewish tradition. In Proverbs we read, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.” Giving charity is tantamount to lending to God. God gives us the opportunity to do Him a favor! Of course, God could supply everyone with all their needs on His own, but He allows us to help Him in helping others and rewards us for our kindness as well.

Friends, let’s take advantage of the opportunity God has given to us to become part of His plan in making the world a better place. Heaven isn’t that far away; it’s a place wherever kindness abounds, and it can be found around the corner, across the globe, or right inside your own home.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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June 28, 2016
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