In their own way, they made sure to greet others with a smile and a kind word
“And charity will save from death…”
There were once two brothers who grew up orphaned from their mother at a young age. Their father, too, fell sick when the brothers were only teenagers. It was a very sad day when he summoned his two sons to his bedside. He knew his last moments were approaching, and he wanted to impart one final message to his precious sons.
“My dear boys, you know how proud I am of everything that you both have accomplished in your lives. And I know you will both continue to do great things in the service of Hashem. Know that your mother and I will always look after you, even in the next world. Chazal tell us that the world is sustained because of all the prayers of those who have passed. So, although I may not physically be with you, I—”
The older son, Fishel, gently took his father’s hand.
“Father, please do not say such things. You will get better and live to see another day.”
The younger brother, Leibel, took his father’s other hand.
“Father, be strong. Stay with us…”
Their father just smiled as he shook his head weakly.
“Listen to me, boys. I want you both to remember one thing after I am gone. I will not be around to guide you any longer, but if you take my message to heart, it will lead you on the right path to serve Hashem. My final message to you is to always treat one another with love and kindness, and act with everyone around you with pleasantness, mercy, and goodwill. Be gracious and caring to every person you encounter. You should always be prepared to give to others, whether it’s money, a smile, or some food. Charity saves from death, and charity you shall give to all who seek it.”
He closed his eyes, and the brothers felt their hearts flutter. But then their father opened his eyes and gazed at them once more.
“The stargazers predicted that Rabi Akiva’s daughter would be killed by a snake on her wedding day. Back then, there were real stargazers who could predict the future based on the constellations and the knowledge they possessed. On his daughter’s wedding day, there was indeed an extremely poisonous snake slithering across the wall, poised to inject its deadly venom into its prey.
“But the snake was killed, not its intended victim. Rabi Akiva’s daughter removed a pin from her hair and stuck it into the wall beside her. When she went to retrieve it from the wall, she saw that she had impaled a deadly snake with it!
“Rabi Akiva asked his daughter what she had done to be saved from death. His daughter related that the night of the wedding, a poor person had come to the door, but everyone was too busy to receive him. So the kallah went over to him and gave him her own portion of the wedding meal.”
The man drew one last deep breath and locked eyes with his sons.
“Charity saves from death.”
Fishel and Leibel were devastated by the loss of their father. They resolved to always walk in his ways and never deviate from his last instructions. In their own way, they made sure to greet others with a smile and a kind word, and although they had little money, they were always looking out for ways to help others and give to those less fortunate.
Then the time came for marriage. Both boys married wonderful women who were equally committed to continue the family tradition of giving and helping others. Fishel saved up enough money to buy out someone’s business, and after several years of hard work and tremendous siyata d’Shmaya, he became an extremely wealthy man.
But Leibel could not make ends meet. Fishel helped him out as best he could, but Leibel did not feel good taking money from his older brother.
“Fishel, I appreciate you helping me out, but I can’t continue living like this. It’s in our blood to be givers, not takers. I’ve decided that the best course of action is for me to leave Europe and search for parnassah elsewhere.”
“Leibel! You can’t be serious! We’ve always stayed so close to one another, especially after Father’s passing. Do you think for a moment that I can’t take care of you and your family? I’m more than happy to continue helping you as much as you need!”
“I know, but with the help of Hashem, both of our families will grow, and it’s not feasible for me to rely on you to support us all. There is someone who lives in America who is going to help me settle there. I will try my hand at a new business in a new place. There’s no point arguing with me about it, Fishel. I’ve already prepared everything for the trip, and there’s no turning back any longer. I’ve just come now to say goodbye and give you a heartfelt thank-you for always helping me throughout the years.”
The brothers embraced, tears rolling down their faces.
Neither one could have known the incredible story that would unfold after this, and how different their lives would soon become.
Life for Fishel was idyllic. He lived in a huge home together with his wife and daughter. He gave freely to everyone who asked him for help. His home was open to all sorts of visitors, and no one was ever turned away. He lived with his father’s last message echoing in his mind.
But that all began to change when his daughter, Zissy, grew older. She was, naturally, the apple of her father’s eye and he adored and pampered her constantly. Her mother too treated her royally, ensuring that she lacked for nothing. However, their precious Zissy began to become bothered by the constant flow of guests who came into the home at all hours of the day and night. The mess bothered her, and the smell was not always so pleasant. She had to share her belongings too, and sometimes her favorite cake would be eaten by others when she had been hoping to have some herself.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 934)
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