The famed B’nei Yisas’char, Rav Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov zt”l, used to say: “Why don’t we make a blessing before we give tz’dakah, the way we make blessings on everything else? Because, had we been commanded to make such a brachah, the poor person could have very well starved to death by the time we finished making our blessing! If the baal ha’bayis is a chasid, he would first have to go to the mikvah, then he would have to recite a lengthy l’sheim yichud. If he was a Litvak, he would undoubtedly learn up the sugya in order to do the mitzvah mehadrin min ha’mehadrin! By the time he got through all the preliminaries, the poor fellow would most probably have dropped dead!”
Most of the time, we are privy to hearing terrible stories of poverty and impoverishment, and how the indigent struggle to make ends meet, or mosdos and organizations struggle to raise money to pay their rebbeim and cover their budgets. It isn’t always common to hear a story from the opposite perspective. Indeed, the rich also face many tests in giving. The following story was related by a well-known baal-chesed, who shared this story.
The rich man, whom we shall call Reb Shaya, would travel to Eretz Yisrael quite often for Yamim Tovim or business, and he usually took precautions to ensure that his trip would go smoothly. As an experienced traveler, he knew what papers he needed, what forms must be filled out in advance, and what luggage and other accoutrements he should pack with him.
On one occasion, he flew to Eretz Yisrael for a friend’s wedding, together with his 13-year-old son. When they arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, they were greeted by a scene of pandemonium: An entire group of individuals representing numerous charitable institutions and yeshivos came to meet him and lay out the red carpet. They expected him to shell out big money and each wanted to be first in line when he arrived. Anyone might have anticipated what would happen when they all converged on the traveler at the same time. The moment he emerged into the airport waiting area, the entire gaggle of collectors began to fight for the privilege of taking the man and his son to Yerushalayim. Of course, a huge ruckus ensued. There was jostling and pushing, and the rich man tried to be courteous to each and every person, but it was getting increasingly difficult to maintain his composure, as the commotion spilled over from the terminal out to the pickup area and then into the parking garage. Not to mention his young son who was almost entirely forgotten, and received the back-end of all the pushing and shoving, while trying to wheel his, and his father’s, luggage.
As such things often go, the end result was that one suitcase was left behind. It wasn’t noticed until much later, but of all the suitcases, that bag contained most of his important stuff. “That single suitcase held my best clothing,” said Reb Shaya later, as he was discussing his trip. “I had come for a wedding, and I had also planned to visit some of the roshei yeshivah and tzadikim in Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak, so I had packed my very best things: my good suits, my favorite cufflinks, expensive shoes that were brand-new.
What’s worse, when I stopped in New York, on my way to Israel, I met a friend who took me shopping. This friend convinced me to buy some expensive shirts, and the suitcase also contained some of my favorite (actually irreplaceable) ties. Not only that, but all of my son’s best clothing and shoes were in the suitcase, too.” He had to spend the entire following day shopping with his 13-year-old son.
“I know it might sound trivial, but I felt pretty bad about what happened,” he continued. “But in the end, I really learned the meaning of the advice of Chazal about running away from honor. I have gone to Eretz Yisrael so many times, and I have never lost a single suitcase. My trips are generally in and out, and they run pretty smoothly. Yet this time, when all these people came out to honor me and I was basking in the glow of their adulation in full view of hundreds of onlookers and bystanders (and I accepted the ride to Yerushalayim), I lost all of my precious belongings!”
The rich man had learned his lesson, and it was the last time he would accept any such honor.
(Collector’s Collection, by Rav C. Orange)