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Midot Hayom: Day 6: Yesod in Chesed

A woman approached Binyamin the Tzaddik, the secretary of the communal charity fund. “Rabbi, give me money to buy food,” she cried. “I swear, the charity fund is empty!” he replied. “Rabbi,” she said, “if you don’t take care of me, you will be responsible for the death of a widow and her seven sons.” He gave her the money from his own pocket. Later, Binyamin the Tzaddik became ill and lay in bed with pain. Said the ministering angels to the Holy One, Blessed is He, “Master of the Universe, You said, ‘whoever saves a single life is as though he saved a whole world.’ How much more so Binyamin the Tzaddik who saved a widow and her seven sons! Yet he is in bed suffering excruciating pain.” Immediately, his death sentence was torn up, and twenty-two years were added to his life. Avot of Rabbi Nathan 3:10

There is a disturbing moment in this story: Binyamin’s initial response to the widow. Why did he wait until she argued that he would be responsible for the death of a widow and seven sons before reaching into his own pocket? It seems that Binyamin wanted the woman to understand that if she was asking for money from the communal fund that he had nothing to give her. He only responded when she cried out how desperate her situation was. Binyamin understood that this woman was turning to the fund for help. He wanted her to understand that whenever one asks for help, they are actually asking God to help through that person. Binyamin pushed her until she cried out in her desperation. The “Tzaddik” insists that a person always be aware that the help comes from God.

We should use this day to be aware that wherever we turn for help, and to whomever we turn, we are only asking that God send the help through this person or fund.

We also should be careful not to take any credit for what we are able to do for others. We should see ourselves as agents of God’s help.

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