The widow’s eyes flashed, and she drew herself up to her full height. She stood there, seething in anger and hurt
ischel began to rise from his chair, his hand already sliding to the purse of money lying before him on the desk.
“No, no, Father. I will get the door for you.”
Zissy went quickly to the door and opened it. It was the widow who had accepted Zissy’s old clothes. She pushed past Zissy. She was still carrying some of Zissy’s old clothes.
“Where’s your father? I am absolutely freezing in my home. I have no firewood! He said he would help me out, but the money he gave me wasn’t enough. Please bring your father to me immediately before I freeze to death!”
“Calm down.” Zissy tried to control the anger and revulsion she felt toward the widow. Her eyes trailed over the tears and stains on the widow’s coat, and of course the trail of mud she was leaving across the immaculate floor. “My father is completely wiped out from a whole day of not only working to provide for his family, but also to provide for everyone else in this village. Now is not the best time—”
“Ha! Easy for you to tell me to calm down! Standing there in your beautiful dress, in your warm, elegant home, not wanting for anything in the world. Perfect little girl, in her perfect little world! What do you know about pain, girl?”
“I know my father is also a human, and he also needs a break from… people like you.”
The widow’s eyes flashed, and she drew herself up to her full height. She stood there, seething in anger and hurt.
“I— I didn’t mean that. What I meant was that I think you have completely lost all respect for yourself, and you also don’t care about the feelings of others. Just because my father helps people, doesn’t mean he wants our house to be open at all hours to everyone who feels like waltzing in!”
“You should be like me!” The widow’s screams echoed around the room, crashing down on Zissy’s ears without mercy. “You should be a widow, and then you will know…”
Zissy’s jaw dropped.
“How dare you curse me like that! The clothing that you wear is mine! The clothing that you sell for profit is also mine! It’s like I’ve always known, you people have no—”
The widow turned before Zissy could finish her words. She threw Zissy’s old dresses onto the floor and disappeared into the night, never to return.
Zissy didn’t change. The poor people did, however, continue to change their schedules to avoid her. Only when it was certain she was not around did the paupers dare approach Fischel for help.
Eventually it became time for Zissy to begin looking for a shidduch. There was no shortage of people eager to take her hand in marriage. She came from the most noble of homes, a house of chesed (though few knew of her true feelings regarding the paupers who came there). She was soon engaged, and a royal wedding was planned. Everyone looked forward to the wedding day with much anticipation.
On the wedding day, Zissy’s chassan was busy in his room sifting through some of the papers detailing the wedding arrangements. His father-in-law was very generous. Fischel was providing the couple with a new, beautiful home after the wedding, and support for several years. Life looked wonderful.
The chassan glanced out the window. It was getting late in the day. The time of the chuppah was fast approaching. Time to put the finishing touches on all the arrangements. He stood up and put the papers into a neat pile with a smile of satisfaction. Then he began to polish his shoes.
There was a knock at the door.
“Give me a moment! I’m a bit busy! Getting ready for the wedding!”
“One minute, please!”
The door swung open and a tall man, hunched over, dressed all in black, stepped into the room.
“Tzedakah?” The man held out a hand.
“Tzedakah? Who said you could open the door?”
The tall man didn’t flinch, his fingers still outstretched, waiting for his donation.
“I’m sorry… It’s my wedding day, and I’ve only got a short time left before I walk down to the chuppah. Please leave so I can finish my preparations.”
The man didn’t leave.
“Go ask someone else for tzedakah right now! You’ve picked the worst time, sir!”
The hand withdrew, and the man slunk from the room, the door shutting softly behind him.
The chassan shook his head.
Zissy was also finishing her preparations for the wedding. She heard a knock at the door.
“Someone get the door, please!”
No one did.
The knocking became more urgent.
“Whoever’s knocking, please come back another time!”
The knocking intensified.
“If it’s one of the tzedakah collectors for father, I will literally—“
Zissy stormed to the door and threw it open.
Zissy stared at the tall, hunched man dressed in black, with the outstretched hand.
“Any other day you could come, but you had to come right now? Everyone knows our wedding is about to begin! Why would you come now to my father, just as we’re all so busy? Didn’t you hear me calling that now’s not a good time?”
“No, no tzedakah for you! How rude! I would have given you something, but now I’ll make sure you get nothing, even from father. You didn’t even apologize!”
Now the beggar’s gaze lifted, until his eyes had found Zissy’s. He spoke slowly.
“I will come to the wedding and take…”
And then, with a swish of his dark robes, he hobbled off.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 937)
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