Re’eh

August 1, 2013

Dear Readers

I am on holiday in London, waiting for the delayed Brit of my new grandson בשעה טובה ומוצלחת. So here is some light reading but based on the verse in the Sedra פתוח תפתח את ידיך…..

Re’eh: Open Your Hand Generously

“When… any of your brothers is poor, do not harden your heart or shut your hand against your needy brother. Open your hand generously, and extend to him any credit he needs to take care of his wants.” (Deut. 15:7-8)

Below are two stories that illustrate Rav Kook’s remarkable generosity. Both incidents occurred during the years he served as rabbi of Jaffa, from 1904 to 1914.

The Rabbi’s Salary

Rav Kook’s wife once appeared before the community directorate of Jaffa, headed by Mr. Meir Dizengoff, with a serious complaint. She had not seen her husband’s salary for months, and had no means of support. The leaders of the community were shocked. After investigating the matter, however, they discovered that the Rav himself was distributing his income to the needy.

The leaders asked Rav Kook how he could act in such a manner, caring more for strangers than his own household.

Rav Kook responded simply, ‘My family can buy food at the local grocery on credit. Others, however, cannot do so. Who would agree to give them what they need on credit?’

From that day on, the treasurer of the community was given strict orders to give the rabbi’s salary only to his wife.

Disqualified Guarantor

In 1907, the Jaffa correspondent for the Chavatzelet newspaper published an article criticizing the Anglo-Palestine Bank (now called Bank Leumi) in town. It seems that a man applied for a loan in the bank, and was asked to produce eleven guarantors. The man managed to find fourteen people who were willing to sign, one of whom was Rav Kook. The bank, however, disqualified most of them – including the rabbi. The correspondent’s conclusion was that the bank deliberately discriminated against religious Jews.

A few weeks later, a rejoinder appeared in the paper. The author, almost certainly associated with the bank, argued that the bank was justified in its rejection of Rav Kook’s guarantees. He wrote,

“The rabbi is extremely good-hearted and gentle by nature. The poor cling to him; and the only reason there are some beggars who do not knock on his door is because they know he has no money. If they only knew that they could get money in exchange for a small piece of paper, which he can always grant them, they would give him no peace.”
“Besides which, (if he is allowed to be a guarantor) he will unwittingly put himself under the burden of debts, from which he will not be able to escape. Large amounts of money will be lost, and one of the following will suffer: either the venerable rabbi, and it will be unpleasant for the bank to extract money from him; or the bank itself. Therefore, the bank decided unanimously not to honor the rabbi’s guarantees.”

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