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Thought for the Day: Tzedaka to Goyim

We are about to become the proud owners of a new dining room set.  New to us, that is; a Jewish coworker lost and uncle recently and the dining room set belonged to her grandmother (who was also the uncle's mother).  My coworker is not frum, but she has fond memories of Pesach seders at that table and is happy to see it going to a Jewish home.  We don't need (nor even have the space for) our existing dining room set, so we offered it to our children's non-Jewish nanny (who was quite appreciative, by the way).

I know, I know... you are probably asking yourself right now: Hey!  What about the issur of לא תחנם/not to give gifts to non-Jews for no reason?!  First of all, this is not a problem, since she is a service provider for us and she will certainly be even more inclined to do a good job for us.  (I found a very nice write up by the Kof-K on this whole issue online here; it's worth a look see.)  However, this is a nice segue to relaying a story that R' Fuerst said over in a shiur recently.

The Noda b'Yehuda was the Chief Rabbi of Prague for many years.  He once saw a non-Jewish child (10 or so years of age) crying bitterly and stopped to see what was wrong.  The child said his step-father was a baker who gave him a quantity of bread each morning to sell.  This particular day the child had lost the money and was terrified to go home, knowing that he would receive a sound beating for being so irresponsible.  The Noda b'Yehuda asked how much had been lost, then reached into his pocket and give the child the total sum.

Fast forward 30 years.  The Noda b'Yehuda was learning late one night just before Pesach and responded to a knock on the door.  There is a goy standing there who says, "Rabbi, you surely don't remember me, but I was that little boy you saved from a beating with a day's wages.  I am coming to tell you that many of the non-Jewish bakers have secretly planned to poison the bread they bake on the last day of Pesach since they know all the Jews will be coming to buy bread immediately after the holiday and this way they can wipe out most of the community.  Even though I am risking my life to tell you this, I am sure the rabbi, in his wisdom, will know how to deal with this situation."

The Noda b'Yehuda waited till the eve of the last day of Pesach and then sent word to all of the congregations in Prague that everyone was to daven shacharis at the main shul for the last day of Pesach, as the rav wishes to address the entire community.  All the shuls were closed and everyone was at the main shul for shacharis.  The Noda b'Yehuda announced that a mistake in the calendar had been made and they had started Pesach on day early; everyone needed to therefore keep one more day of Pesach.  Everyone was shocked, but they all did as instructed.  The Noda b'Yehuda went to the police to expose the plot and that night (which, of course, really was the end of Pesach), it was the police who showed up at the bakeries instead of the Jews.  Bread was confiscated and tested, many bakers were jailed.  Shalom for Klal Yisrael.

The Noda b'Yehuda said that every Jew has a special propensity to acts of kindness.  When a Jew sees human suffering -- whether it is a Jew or a goy -- he can't help but feel a need to act and help.  Whereas even giving the free peanuts they (used to) give on a flight to a goy most certainly (according to R' Fuerst) included in the issur of לא תחנם, helping one's fellow man who is in distress is just not included since that is part of our spiritual make up.

I couldn't help but laugh by R' Fuerst personal feelings of wonder at this story -- he was having trouble with the concept that the entire community actually listened to its rav!

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