Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death. — Proverbs 11:4
I just heard the most incredible story. Recently, a young Jewish man named Jacob and his fiancée, Miriam were driving on Interstate 95 in New York when a huge gust of wind started shaking the car back and forth. As Jacob tried desperately to gain control of his car, an eighteen-wheeler was rapidly approaching his car.
The truck and the car collided, completely totaling Jacob’s car. The accident was horrific. The last thing Jacob remembers hearing that day was the truck driver calling for help, saying that it looked as though there was one fatality and one person in serious condition.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, Jacob’s friend was visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem. He was approached by a beggar, but the friend apologized profusely that he had left his money in his hotel room. The beggar persisted and kept paraphrasing a verse from Proverbs: “Charity saves from death.” He insisted that the friend check his pockets.
Surprisingly, Jacob’s friend found just one dollar in his pocket. A dollar that, in fact, Jacob had given him to be donated as charity in Israel. It is a Jewish custom to send a dollar or more with any person traveling to Israel in order to ensure safe travels and to bless Israel.
Miraculously, both Jacob and his fiancé made full recoveries. Jacob’s friend was shocked to find out that it was exactly when Jacob and Miriam were being wheeled into the ER, clinging to life, that the beggar had approached him at the Western Wall, crying, “Charity saves from death.” Four months later, Jacob and Miriam were married, and they tell everyone about the miracle they experienced and how one small act of kindness can change – and even save — lives.
In Proverbs, Solomon teaches, “Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” Solomon explains that not only is our wealth worthless after we die, but that it has no power to save us from our troubles. Literally translated from the original Hebrew, the second part of the verse reads, “but charity delivers from death.” This is the verse the beggar at the Western Wall was quoting when he approached Jacob’s friend. This is the verse that saved Jacob’s life.
Notice that the verse doesn’t say that a person has to give a lot of charity. Just give. Judaism teaches that it is better to give a little a lot of times, than to give a large sum just once. When we give consistently, we reinforce our self-image as givers and become more generous as a result.
Charity saves lives – those of others and of ourselves. To whom might you give today?
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President