Halacha for Monday 1 Iyar 5782 May 2 2022

One Who Increases Charity, Increases Peace

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (Chapter 2, Mishnah 8) states: “One Who increases charity (Tzedakah), increases peace.” Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l explains that when there is a financial deficit in one’s home, the harmony in the home between husband and wife is disturbed, as the Gemara (Baba Metzia 59a) states, “One should always be sure to bring one’s grain into the house, for strife in the home is only due to a result in a lack of grain (sustenance), as the verse states, ‘He who makes your borders peaceful, he shall satiate you with the fat of wheat.’” (Tehillim 147)

Since we have concluded the Pesach holiday not too long ago, let us recount an incident which occurred approximately two hundred and thirty years ago in the city of Prague.

The Chief Rabbi of Prague at that time was none other than the master of halachic genius, Hagaon Rabbeinu Yechezkel Landau zt”l, author of the renowned Responsa Noda Bi’huda. One frigid and stormy night as he sat and home and studied Torah, he heard crying outside. The venerable sage paused his learning and went outside where he saw a young Christian lad sitting on a rock and crying. The rabbi went over to him and asked him why he was crying. The young man replied, “My father is one of the bakers of the city. My mother has died and my father remarried another woman. My father’s new wife is a cruel woman and she makes me go out every day with baskets laden with bread to sell in the market and I must hand over all of the money I have earned to her. Today, something terrible happened: Although I succeeded in selling all of the bread, on my way home I realized that the money had fallen out of my pockets and I have misplaced it. If I return home empty-handed, I will receive beatings and shouts from my wicked step-mother. I do not know what to do in this freezing weather now and I am hungry and thirsty.” The great sage heard this and had mercy on the lad and asked him how much money he had lost to which he replied, “Twenty gold coins.” The rabbi gave him twenty gold coins plus some extra pocket money and told him, “Go buy yourself something to eat and drink on your way home.”

Approximately thirty years had passed and the rabbi had all but forgotten this story. On the night of the seventh day of Pesach, the rabbi heard a knock on his door. The rabbi opened the door and in walked a man claiming to bear an important secret which many lives depended on. The rabbi seated the man down and the man began, as follows: “I remember your kindness to me several decades ago. When I was a young lad, you saved me from hunger, freezing, and beating from my step-mother. Because of this, I felt an obligation to return this kindness to you and the Jewish residents of the city of Prague. The local priest, an ardent Jew-hater, called for a meeting of all of the bakers of Prague, myself included, and suggested that upon the conclusion of the holiday of Pesach when the Jews scramble to buy Chametz from non-Jews, the bakers should poison the bread the Jews would buy and finally put an end to the Jewish community in Prague. As a result, he claimed that the bakers would receive forgiveness for all of their sins and ascend directly to Heaven.”

“I could not stand by idly as I remembered your mercy upon me at my time of need. I have therefore come to notify you of this wicked plot and do what you must to protect your community.” The venerable sage thanked this non-Jewish man from the depths of his heart for revealing this plot to annihilate the Jews of Prague to him and he sent him on his way.

On the last day of Pesach, a harsh proclamation of excommunication was decreed in all of the synagogues of the city in the name of the great sage upon anyone who purchased bread from the non-Jews on the night the Pesach holiday concluded, for a great danger awaited anyone who tasted this bread. All of the Jews of Prague abided by the warning of their beloved leader and not one loaf of bread was sold in the city of Prague on Motza’ei Pesach. Eventually, the truth emerged and they succeeded in foiling the evil plot of the priest who wished to harm them and the great Jewish community of Prague was saved from certain death. This is certainly fulfillment of the verse, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you shall find it after many days.” (Kohelet 11; see Anaf Etz Avot, page 107)

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