Love, The Greatest Gift

“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (I John 3:17 KJV)

A 19th-century folktale is set in a small shtetl in Russia, where a terrible cold front was causing extreme suffering to the poor. On one bitingly cold day, the rabbi went to solicit the only wealthy man in town, a man known to be a miser.

The rabbi knocked and the man opened the door. “Come in, Rabbi,” the rich man said. Unlike everyone else in town, he was only in shirtsleeves; after all, his house was well-heated. “No,” the rabbi said. “No need for me to come in. I’ll just be a minute.” The rabbi then proceeded to engage the rich man in a lengthy conversation, asking him detailed questions concerning each member of his family. The man was shivering, yet every time he asked the rabbi to come inside, the rabbi refused.

“And your wife’s cousin, the lumber merchant, how is he?” the rabbi asked.

The rich man’s cheeks were fiery red. “What did you come here for, Rabbi?”

“Oh, that,” the rabbi said. “I need money from you to buy coal for the poor people in town.”

“So why don’t you come in and we’ll talk about it?”

“Because if I come in, we will sit down by your fireplace. You will be very warm and comfortable and when I tell you how the poor are suffering from the cold, you really won’t understand. You’ll give me five rubles, maybe ten, and send me away. But now, out here,” the rabbi went on, indicating the frozen moisture on the man’s cheeks, “when I tell you how the poor are suffering from the cold, I think you’ll understand better. Right?”

The man was happy to give the rabbi 100 rubles just so he could shut the door and return to his fireplace.

Does this story give you pause for reflection? Your comments please.

Content © Rich Brott, 2011

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If you have not been there, it is difficult to describe it and truly understand what it is like.