They laughed and congratulated themselves on a good “find” as they marched away, leaving me alone and wounded
ischel and Zissy couldn’t believe their eyes. Fischel leaped to his feet and embraced his nephew. He had never seen Moshe before, but now that he looked closer, he could clearly see the resemblance between the man before him and his own brother Leibel.
“It’s been a very harrowing journey; I must tell you… I was in a shipwreck, and there was seemingly no way I would survive. The last thing I remember is being thrown into the sea, as the ship began to sink underneath the stormy waves. As far as I could tell, no one else on the ship survived except for me. I was lost and floating on a piece of wood among other bits of the broken ship, but Hashem led me to land. Somehow, I still had a pouch of money slung across my shoulder, and when I made it onto dry land I set off for the nearest outpost of civilization in order to make it here to you.
“It was crystal clear to me that the gemara, “Tzedakah Tatzil memaves!” was what saved my life, and what was continuing to give me the life and energy to put one weary foot in front of the other. My father had always given so much to so many, just as I am sure you do as well, Uncle Fischel.
“Finally, I came upon some people. But instead of receiving help, and perhaps some food and water, they attacked me viciously and left me for dead in the middle of a forest. The money pouch was of course stripped from my body, and they laughed and congratulated themselves on a good “find” as they marched away, leaving me alone and wounded.
“But once more, the Hand of Hashem kept me alive. I could almost see the sea of tzedakah and maasim tovim that my father had performed — and perhaps, myself as well, in my own small way — forming a shield of protection around me as I continued to fight for each breath, clinging desperately to life.
“I managed to drag myself to my feet and keep marching on. Eventually, kind people found me and helped nurse me back to health. I regain my strength quickly, managed to get a bit of money to pay for my basic travel expenses, and continued my journey to get here.
“After many more travails, through which Hashem guided me lovingly, I finally found my way here.”
Moshe stayed at his uncle’s house for the next several weeks, recovering from his ordeal. The more time he spent at the house, the more he noticed how exemplary were the middos of his cousin. He soon learned about the tragic incidents involving her deceased grooms, but when the suggestion came for him to marry Zissy, he did not refuse. He saw the new version of Zissy, after she had worked tirelessly to eradicate her bad middos and to love and perform chesed, just as her father did.
Zissy, however, refused to even consider the shidduch. How could she do it and see her cousin die, just as the other two men had, right underneath their own chuppah! But after much cajoling and reassuring, Zissy agreed.
A wedding date was set, and before they knew it, the day of the wedding arrived.
Moshe busied himself in his room, preparing for the great event. Of course, his father, Leibel, and his mother and siblings had come across the ocean to be here for the joyous occasion. Everyone was geared up for a wonderful night of joy and celebration, but Fischel’s family was much more cautious. No one had shared with Moshe the story about the mysterious beggar dressed in black who had appeared at both weddings before the deaths occurred.
A knock on the door.
“Hello, how can I help you?”
A tall man dressed in tattered black clothing stuck out his hand.
Moshe didn’t think twice. He dropped whatever he was holding, and began to search the room for whatever money he could find.
“I have nothing here at the moment, I’m so sorry…”
The beggar shook his head. His hand fell to his side and he began to retreat, his eyes flashing…
“However, please wait just a moment and I will rush to another room and find something to give you!”
Moshe ran to get money for the beggar, acting as if he were not in any rush at all for the wedding. He returned a moment later, placed the money in the beggar’s hand with a smile and then said, “But wait, do you have a place to eat tonight? You must come to my wedding! You will be my guest of honor. I’ll make sure that you are well fed and cared for.”
The beggar hesitated, then nodded and withdrew.
IN Zissy’s room she was also hurriedly preparing for the wedding. There was a knock at the door. She threw it open, still busy sewing, and was looking down as the beggar in black entered and held out his hand for money.
“Of course, of course!”
Zissy ran, needle and fabric still in hand, to collect money for the beggar. She handed him the money, only momentarily lifting her eyes to see who it was. When she caught sight of the familiar face, she froze.
“I am coming to the wedding.”
The beggar pocketed the money, turned and was gone.
After the brachos were recited underneath the chuppah, the door opened and the beggar entered. Zissy screamed and collapsed in a heap. But the chassan, Moshe, didn’t notice immediately. That was because he had sprinted over to the beggar upon seeing him enter, and quickly led him to a table so that he didn’t feel uninvited or unnoticed.
When Moshe returned to his place underneath the chuppah, Zissy had woken up. The beggar approached, and his eyes no longer seemed to flash fire.
“You have changed your ways, and you have chosen a groom who makes tzedakah a priority. No longer shall you be cursed, and from this day on, you will be blessed with everything good, long lives, righteous children, and good health. The power of your tzedakah and kind acts have turned your curse into a blessing. May you be blessed.”
Everyone there said, “Amen!”
The beggar left, never to return.
And everyone there would always remember how powerful tzedakah is. For truly, “Tzedakah Tatzil memaves.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 941)
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