Tzedakah saves from death — but what if one was not giving tzedakah?
he wedding took off with all the pomp and circumstance you might expect from prestigious and wealthy families celebrating the joyous marriage of their children. Food was piled high and the band played merrily as guests milled about waiting for the chuppah, enjoying the beautiful décor and flowers.
And then came time for the chuppah. A hushed silence fell as everyone watched the chassan and kallah underneath the beautifully decorated canopy. As rabbanim were called up to recite the brachos, a tall, disheveled figure dressed in black pushed his way through the crowd. His eyes were fixed on the chassan and kallah. It was the same piercing stare he had directed toward them just a short while earlier.
As the brachos were recited loudly and joyously, the beggar’s own voice pierced through the room.
“I have come to take!”
The chassan slumped forward, collapsing onto the floor. There was nothing anyone could do. He was no longer among the living.
The wedding tragedy was the talk of town for quite some time. Theories abounded, trying to explain what had happened. But the rumors were all false, and everyone knew it. The townspeople chalked it up to a gezeirah from Hashem — there was no natural explanation for it, and nothing could have prevented it from occurring.
Zissy was heartbroken, a mere shell of her former self. She barely left her room, so great was her grief. But no one had yet connected the dots between the widow’s curse and the mysterious beggar on the day of the wedding. Tzedakah saves from death — but what if one was not giving tzedakah?
One of the greatest tools of healing that Hashem created is time. After a year or so, Zissy’s grief had healed just enough that she was once again open to listening to the various suggestions that were offered to her. A wonderful boy was proposed for her. A nice man, with a great parnassah, too. Perhaps she would consider meeting him?
She did. Soon another wedding was being planned. Fischel and his wife spared no expense to ensure that this was a celebration that would really uplift their daughter. Zissy would occasionally find herself reliving the horrific moments from her first wedding, but she did her best to banish those memories from her mind. That was the past, after all. And it was something totally out of her control, she believed. Who can ensure the future will be good? It was out of her control, she told herself, and so she would dwell on it as little as possible as her second wedding neared.
The day of the wedding, a new chassan was now standing where the old one had once stood. He combed his hair, brushed his suit, and prepared for his special night. A knock on the door.
“Not now…” he muttered to himself. “I’m busy!”
The knocking continued, and he had no choice but to open the door.
A tall man in dark robes stood there. It was obvious from the look on his face that he had not eaten in a long time, and he was shivering from the cold.
The man was silent, but his hand rose, palm upturned.
The chassan sighed.
“I’m sorry, but now’s not a good time. Normally I would go look for some money to give you, but right now I’m simply too busy. Tell you what though, go ahead and collect at the other homes, and come back to me another day, okay?”
The beggar didn’t move. His eyes bore into the chassan’s. A long, lingering stare.
“Did you hear what I said? I can give you, but just not today.”
The beggar waited, his eyes flashing. If only the chassan could read the beggar’s mind and know his true intention…
“I see I haven’t made myself clear. I am not giving you money right now.” The chassan gestured outside. “Please…”
The beggar’s hand fell to his side. A shiver went up the chassan’s back, though he had no idea why. The beggar followed the chassan’s prompt and walked away.
Zissy was next to receive the beggar. Incessant knocking, just like the last time. She answered the door.
“Sorry, it’s my wedding tonight and it’s not a good time.”
The beggar stretched out a hand, waiting, his eyes once again flashing a warning that Zissy did not see.
“Come back another time—” Zissy’s eyes went round. “Oh, wait, I remember you… You came to me on my last wedding day, didn’t you? Why do you pick this specific time to come? Please, come back at a better time.”
The beggar waited.
But Zissy was not budging.
“I will come to the wedding to take…”
Another wedding. The memory of the first one was not entirely forgotten, and people were a bit less jovial. Happy yes, but joy mingled with grief. The chuppah. Loud voices, raised in celebration as the brachos were read aloud.
Here comes the black-robed beggar. Again.
His voice, this time louder than the last. No longer masked by the voice of the person reciting the brachah.
“I have come to take!”
The words crashed through the room like a terrifying thunderclap.
This time everyone in town knew there was something very wrong occurring. Who had ever heard of such a tragedy? One kallah, two deceased chassanim? Collapsing lifeless underneath the chuppah! And the mysterious beggar! Who was he really? Why was he coming after Zissy? What had she done to deserve such a punishment?
Lying awake at night, Zissy trembled and sobbed endlessly. What had she done to bring this upon herself?
Two months later, Zissy was looking out the window when she spotted the widow hobbling by in the street, bent over from carrying heavy loads of clothing on her frail back. A thought occurred to Zissy, as memories of the widow’s curse resurfaced in her mind. Could it be…?
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 938)
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