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Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

When it rains in England it seems to rain in a thousand directions. The stuff is thrown at you from every side, and umbrellas are quaint but not very useful. Rain in that part of the world is unique, and decidedly wet, especially to someone from Eretz Yisroel, whose experience has been that one prayed for rain and didn’t swim in the stuff.

Rav Michel is a fourth-generation Yerushalmi, who until recently had never stepped outside Eretz Yisrael. His is a wondrous life, dedicated to teaching Torah and guiding generations toward a future of holiness. Never was it in the plan that he would have to wade through a rainstorm in England.

What had brought this renowned Rosh Yeshiva to such distant, stormy shores? Simply put, it was money. The lack of it had brought our hero to this rain-swept environment. The cold seeped into his every bone as he schlepped from one door to the next, but more than the rain, he felt the stab of lonely pain. He had never thought he would have to go out collecting funds; this was not his responsibility. For years the yeshivah had gotten by with what passed for financial help from the government, plus the generosity of a few alumni who had become somewhat successful in their business lives. Sadly, things had taken a turn for the worse, and the simple truth was that if he didn’t go out to chutz la’aretz to raise funds, the doors of the venerable yeshivah would soon close.

He had spoken to a few talmidim who were very happy to help in some way. Yes, addresses would be given, and certainly a phone call or two made, “but, Rebbe, please remember, there are appointments to keep and places to go; business stops for no man.” In the end, this holy Rebbe had to go traipsing through foreign streets, cold and alone.

In his hand was a list of addresses, each leading him to the home of a well-to-do Torah supporter, each of them obviously able to understand how vital the Rosh Yeshivah’s program was. The list came with telephone numbers as well; unfortunately, it seemed that every homeowner he called was out of town. So, to the streets he went, hoping that the direct approach would succeed.

The list had become quite frayed, its ink a bit smudged. Our Rosh Yeshivah was not very good at asking for money. Ask him a she’eilah on a difficult Rashi and he could respond with deep yet clear, understandable language. But when it came to knocking on a door and asking for help, his hands would sweat and the temperature in his soul would rise. The poor man had no idea how to share with others what his needs were, and so far, the trip had been a dismal experience.

As he approached the next door his breathing grew a bit faster. Generally, he loved to talk to Yidden and was confident when in the beis medrash, sharing the odd anecdote or two. But when he had to knock on a door and ask for money his knees would wobble and his heart would sink. He half-wished that no one would be at home and that, having made his hishtadlus, having tried, Hashem would help and he would be saved the embarrassment of having to beg.

Rav Michel had become quite a student of human character in the few days he had spent in England. He had learned that there are a thousand ways to say no and to do so with a smile. Somehow it seemed that every Jew he met was single-handedly supporting all the yeshivos in Yerushalayim but his, plus numerous children, grandchildren and alter bubbehs. Having heard all these excuses didn’t help much in the way of encouragement. In fact, it added to the patina of sadness that was now enveloping the Rosh Yeshivahs view of things. Yet there is always room for a new insight, and at the next-door Rav Micha’el experienced just such a one. Ringing the bell with his usual fainthearted tremble, he heard a voice from behind the closed door. “Who is it?” Fair-enough question. Clearing his throat, the Rav called out his name. “Where are you from?” The question was shouted out by what was clearly a child’s voice. “Jerusalem.” An impressive address in the best of times. Then the Rosh Yeshivah heard voices that were somewhat muffled: Tell him I’m not home…. “My father said he’s not home and that you should come some other time.”

Oh, dear, how sad. The Rav turned away with his shoulders even more stooped, tears in his eyes. His sadness sprang from his deep love for Klal Yisrael; it wasn’t so painful that yet another door remained closed to him, but that this man had involved his son in a lie.

Mishlei  (chapter 10) speaks of the huge responsibility we have in bringing up our young. It is not about only teaching lessons or paying tuition so that others can teach them; it is about living in such a way that our children see these lessons actualised by us.

“A wise son gladdens a father, but a foolish son is his mother’s sorrow.” Rashi explains that the father spoken of here can be Hashem, Who as our Creator has great pleasure when we act in accordance with a Torah lifestyle. This is why we were created – to bring Hashem’s essence into the reality of the material world. The mother who is sorrowed by the foolish child is Klal Yisrael, the nation that must bear the pain of our foolishness. When we deprive our young of true role models at home, we are being foolish, and the result of this is foolish children. How many of our young turn away from the path we seek for them because they have sensed that we as parents aren’t living as we should? This great sorrow of Klal Yisrael is a huge burden indeed.

“Treasures gained through evil will not avail, but charity rescues from death.”

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch tells us that these verses are connected. “If parents want to see true joy from their child they must stress the spiritual aspect of his upbringing more than the material one. A child should be taught to recognize that ‘treasures of wickedness will not avail’; money does not guarantee true well-being.”

A home that is truly charitable will be saved from the dark spiritual death that occurs when a child turns from the righteous path.

We live in times of comparative affluence, yet we find that many of our friends and neighbours aren’t truly happy. This could be because, tragically, they have allowed money to become the measure of their worth. This emptiness corrodes their hearts and eats away at the very fabric of who they are. You may have a very expensive mezuzah on your door, but if the door isn’t opened with warmth and love, the mezuzah is weakened.

Listen to yourself when, for example, a shidduch is suggested. What price tag do we place on our children’s heads? Are we interested in the inner worth of the person who is being proposed, or is it about money and so-called prestige? What kind of child are we raising when these messages are being given all the time?

Do we speak in lofty terms at the Shabbos table, and then tell our kids to lie to the fellow at the door? Do we run to Gedolai Torah to be seen, yet fail to hear what they say? The greatest charity we can give, the sort that will bring life amid the anarchy of this deathly world, is to fortify our lessons with action and to live a life that is true to what we claim to strive for.