Whatever is Offered
Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev's
grandchild married the grandchild of the famous rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman
of Liadi. "Now that we are related by this marriage," said Rabbi Schneur
Zalman, "let us join in performing a good deed. An innocent Jew is being
held by the local authorities. Let us take up a collection, to give the
officials the sum they demand for his release."
"Excellent idea," said Rabbi
Levi Yitzhak. "But I ask one condition. Let us accept whatever donation
is offered to us, no matter how small."
The two men went door to door.
Two such distinguished rabbis seldom visited these townspeople together,
so most gave generously. At last, the two rabbis came to the home of a
wealthy man. He greeted them politely, then reached in his pocket, drawing
out a mere half-penny. To Rabbi Schneur Zalman's horror, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak
thanked the man warmly, blessed him, and turned to leave.
When Rabbi Schneur Zalman
had followed his companion outside, he could contain himself no longer.
"Why should we accept that insultingly small amount from one who has so
Rabbi Levi Yitzhak said, as
they walked on, "I asked you to accept whatever we were given. Please be
Some time later, the rich
man strode up behind them. "I am sorry," he said. "Please accept more from
me." He gave them a silver coin, then turned and left. Rabbi Levi Yitzhak
called after him, "You are a good and generous man!"
Rabbi Schneur Zalman fumed
at Rabbi Levi Yitzhak. "He could afford a hundred times as much! Why must
we bless this stinginess?"
"Please bear with me, honored
relative." They continued walking.
A short while later, the rich
man caught up to them again. Out of breath, he said, "Will you forgive
me for how little I gave you?" He held out a sack bulging with a hundred
Rabbi Levi Yitzhak took the
rich man's hand. "Yes, with all my heart," he said. The rich man gave the
coins and left, obviously relieved.
Now Levi Yitzhak turned to
Rabbi Schneur Zalman. "May I tell you the story of that wealthy man?
"He has always given generously
to those in need. But a week ago, a beggar approached him while he was
meeting with a group of businessmen. Reluctant to interrupt the others
to get his purse, the wealthy man reached into his pocket and gave the
beggar the only coin he found there, a half-penny.
"The beggar was furious. This
rich man was famous for giving silver coins. Why had he slighted him? The
beggar threw the coin at the rich man, striking him in the face. In his
pain, the wealthy man vowed to stop being so generous. From now on, he
would give everyone a half-penny - no more!
"It is said that each step
downward leads to another, honored relative. He was within his rights to
offer the beggar only what he had. But he erred when he treated others
the same way. Since that day, every one who approached him has angrily
refused his paltry half-penny gifts. He found himself unable to offer more.
"It is also said that each
step upward leads to another. Once we accepted his half-penny, we loosened
the stopper on his generosity. Each gift he gave made the next one possible.
Now, our willingness to receive has restored him to his goodness."