Rabbi Zalman of Dubrovna and Rabbi Pinchas of Shklov were leading disciples of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad dynasty and movement. They both were outstanding in their scholarship and piety. In addition, they were both rich, and exemplary in generously sharing their wealth with the flood of poor people who beseeched them.
They were also quite humble. In his will, Rabbi Zalman wrote that he foresaw no merits which could save him when he came to his heavenly trial, other than the power of his rebbe and his good deeds of charity.
...he would dip his hand into that box, remove a quick fistful and give its entire contents to the waiting man.
This same chassid used to keep the money he had available for charitable distribution in three separate containers: one for gold coins, one for silver coins and the third for copper ones. When a poor person would come to his house and request from him a donation, he would first make a quick evaluation about which pile of coins it was appropriate to take from for the needs of this particular petitioner, and then he would dip his hand into that box, remove a quick fistful and give its entire contents to the waiting man.
Rabbi Pinchas heard that Rabbi Zalman had a wondrous manner of donating to the poor, so he decided to journey to visit him and hopefully pick up a few tips about how to improve his own methods of giving to the poor. Afterwards, at his next opportunity to speak to his rebbe, he told Rabbi Shneur Zalman that he had learned from Rabbi Zalman a new method for distributing tzedakah. He described it to the rebbe and then added, “Even though I adopted his way, there still exists a difference between us in how we do it.
“When Zalman gives the poor man the fistful of coins, he doesn’t even bother looking to see how much he is giving. I, too, give the entire fistful that I scoop up, but I just can’t seem to resist taking a quick peek first to see how much is in there before giving it away. I have not yet attained his level!”
Connection to Weekly Torah Reading: the commandment to give tzedakah (15:7–11).
Translated and adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from Sipurei Chasidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi [18 Elul 1745–24 Tevet 1812], one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezeritch, is the founder of the Chabad Chassidic movement. He is the author of Shulchan Aruch HaRav and Tanya, as well as many other major works in both Jewish law and the mystical teachings.
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