| Shul with a View |

Zero-Sum Game

Was Geveret Mizrachi actually questioning the amount I gave?


Mrs. Mizrachi,* or “Geveret Mizrachi” as she prefers to be called, collects for various aniyim, needy people, in Eretz Yisrael. Geveret Mizrachi has been coming to the shul for as long as I can remember.

From before vasikin at 4:58 until the final stragglers file out of the 10:30 Shacharis, Geveret Mizrachi sits like a soldier by the front door.

She is quick with a smile and even quicker with advice: “Don’t put so much sugar in your coffee! You can’t even close your jacket!”

As the words come from her heart, the plump parishioner smiles as he spoons his sugar into his coffee.

When anyone resembling a talmid chacham enters her daled amos, she is on her feet faster than any yeshivah bochur can get to the dining room. And she proudly tells anyone who will listen how her grandfather was the Chacham in Djerba.

Geveret Mizrachi is quite adept at her trade, and more than once, I considered offering a position as an official fundraiser for the shul. She’s a skilled, persuasive communicator and knows how to make her appeals memorable and impactful. No one can or wants to say no to Geveret Mizrachi.

This summer, I noticed that Geveret Mizrachi had been propelled into the 21st century. She no longer sat with her laminated letters and a stack of dollar bills on her lap. Now Geveret Mizrachi joins many others who collect using a small, handheld credit card reader.

The reader is no bigger than a small box of matches, and all you have to do is place your card on the screen to, almost magically, be fulfilling the precious mitzvah of tzedakah.

You can tell Geveret Mizrachi how much you’d like to donate, or she’ll give you the option of punching in the amount yourself. Even though she can be quite persuasive, once you’ve given what you can, she’s always very appreciative, never demanding, and never pressures anyone to give more than they want to.

And whatever the amount, she bestows upon her benefactor an abundance of brachos.

When I gave her tzedakah recently, Geveret Mizrachi handed me her new credit card device and asked me to punch in the amount.

I took the small gadget, realized I needed to remove my glasses to see the numbers, punched away, then handed her back the device and began hurrying to my next appointment.

Suddenly, I heard a shrill cry from the back of the shul: “Kevod Harav, wait, your amount!”

I was taken aback. Was Geveret Mizrachi actually questioning the amount I gave? Hadn’t I given her $100? How could she dare ask for more? I was more than a bit annoyed.

Yet there was no time to think. In a flash, Geveret Mizrachi was by my side.

“Kevod Harav, look at your amount! You must have made a mistake!”

How could she say this? I made no mistake: I meant to give $100, and I gave $100. Was Geveret Mizrachi really pressuring me to give more?

“Kevod Harav, come and see, you made a mistake. You accidentally added a zero and punched in one thousand instead of one hundred!

“I canceled the donation.”

Then I looked at Geveret Mizrachi, speechless and embarrassed. I had been sure she was calling me back to ask for more. I was sure I was right, and sure she was acting improperly.

Yet in reality, it was she who was right, and it was she who acted with integrity.

As for me, I was guilty of adding a large extraneous zero to perhaps an already inflated ego.

Thank you, Geveret Mizrachi.

You reminded me how even (or especially?) a rabbi can be guilty of adding a zero where it doesn’t belong.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 971)

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