I am sure that I am not the only one. Indeed, it is tough being inundated with literally dozens of pleas from Israel and beyond for the myriad needs that our brothers and sisters face on a daily basis. Some of the pleas ask for donations to equip soldiers with the proper gear that it seems the IDF has failed to supply to them. Others are for different items that provide warmth for the troops. There are Hats for Heroes, Socks for Soldiers, Blankets for Battalions, and many other entreats, each with a catchy alliterative slogan of its own.
Then there are the supplications for the many wonderful life-saving organizations that provide safety and solace for the community at large. Their mission goes beyond the battlefield, saving lives and providing services to victims of the onslaught of terror that Yidden in Eretz Yisroel are facing. There are emails from various Hatzolah organizations, Zaka and beyond, pleading for help to sustain and recuperate those affected by this terrible war and the aftermath of the Simchas Torah massacre.
Then, of course, there are the pleas to aid those whose livelihoods were crippled by the terrible events and their aftermath. There are organizations supporting farmers and manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, and myriad other workers whose livelihoods have been shattered by the brutality of war.
All of those requests do not mitigate the dozens of others to aid the thousands of displaced families who are missing their basic necessities and provisions that were either destroyed by the inhumanness of the invaders or left behind as families fled their homes in the south while taking refuge in safer quarters. Then there are those organizations that are tending to the mental health of the victims, the care of the yesomim, the trauma of the survivors, and the educational needs of those without schools.
Even if I were to give each request a paltry sum in response to each of the requests, it would be more than I can afford. And yet, it is hard to ignore, delete and certainly to unsubscribe from a mass email sender whose goal is to raise much-needed funds for much-needed causes. I have to imagine that I am not the only one whose combination of rachmonus and guilt is leaving a pit in my stomach.
And then there are the mosdos in America. They, too, need to build. They, too, need to grow. They need your support. A war in Israel does not mean that any kollel should have to suffer. After all, the worldwide zechus haTorah is vital for any successful outcome anywhere in the world, and in an era in which the worldwide Jewish community is beginning to feel its precarious existence, mosdos haTorah everywhere need our support, as well. So add another batch of weekly emails from various different institutions and charities that support Torah, from the core kollel requests to the pleas to sustain front-line organizations that concentrate on lifting the broken spiritual souls and carrying them to a place of Torah nurturing.
It can get very frustrating. Nobody should be upset at receiving so many emails. Chas v’shalom. But many people are simply overwhelmed. The plethora of messages seem to overlap each other and many of them come from organizations that, until this war, the receivers of the requests had never heard of.
I cannot say that I give to all of them, and I cannot say that I give to most of them. I try to keep them in my inbox, and then delete one or two repetitive ones.
But a particular request caught my eye.
It had nothing to do with the war, but the combination of the fact that I knew of the organization and its wonderful work and the sender, who bombards my inbox with countless tzedakah requests ranging from individual needs to global-impact organizations, got me to open it and send a small check.
This particular solicitor is a volunteer, and he usually deals with big-name givers and well-known organizations. I was a bit surprised to see him soliciting for a program that primarily runs its wonderful programs somewhere in Minneapolis and in northern Canada.
Instead of responding with a humorous, “Not you, again,” I must have written a one- or two-word nicety and sent a small contribution. I was shocked to receive an email from him.
Thank you so much for finding time in your busy schedule to write a nice note and a generous donation. It’s very meaningful to me. Thank you.
To me, it’s not the size of the donation as much as it is not being totally ignored by so many complaining that I send too many requests. Merubim tzorchei amcha and our job is to be noseh b’ol. That’s what we learned from our rosh hayeshiva.
For the record, he was overly gracious. I am busy, but not too busy to make a few clicks. No, I did not write an extravagantly nice note. I wrote one line. Finally, it was a small check. It was not a generous donation.
And for that very reason, his response moved me. I am sure that the next time I see an entreaty from the aforementioned askan, I will once again try to help, albeit in a small way.
Furthermore, I learned a tremendous lesson. No matter what you get and no matter how it is given, always be gracious. Never say, “Is that all?”
From his response, I gather that there are those who quibble with him about the constant barrage of requests. I empathize, but argue. You spend at least one day a week, whether it be on Friday night, at Shabbos seudah shlishis, or during the daily post-davening supplications, asking the Almighty, “Only goodness and kindness opportunities should pursue me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of Hashem for many long years” (Tehillim 23).
Indeed, you asked that tov and chesed should pursue you. Would you rather that they pursue you or that you pursue them? I am sure that you would rather the former than the latter.
Whether on the giving end or the receiving end, always be gracious.
Rabbi Berel Wein tells the story of how as rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Shaarei Torah in Monsey, he flew to Los Angeles to meet a well-known philanthropist. His meeting seemed to have been a success, and he came back to New York assured that a nice check would arrive soon.
The disappointment was palpable and the frustration overwhelming when a FedEx envelope greeted his arrival back in his yeshiva containing a check for 18 dollars.
Rabbi Wein wanted to write a scathing letter, but instead, licking his chops, he wrote a gracious response. He was lucky that he did not write the intended letter. The next day, another envelope came with a magnanimous donation, including an apology letter from the secretary, who had mixed up Rabbi Wein’s institution with another one with the same name.
Indeed, many of us are being chased. We are being pursued by chesed and the opportunity to give tzedakah. It is harder to be pursued when you are in the house of Hashem, before or after or during davening, than when you are sitting in front of your desktop checking your email. But either way, even if you cannot give to everyone, you can ingest the fact that Yidden are taking of their time and own monies to help others in need. And as many times as you may hit the delete button, there may be one or two messages that will resonate with you. It may evoke a check. It may evoke an idea. It may evoke a kind word that will mean so much to a person in pain, who is only trying to help others in similar or worse pain. And it may not only change your attitude, it may change your life entirely.