The Beggar in the Kippah – A True Passover TalePosted on March 21st, 2012 3 comments
Rabbi Joel Soffin‘s experience on the streets of New York, recalls the classic Hassidic tales. It is a modern classic.
It was the day of the first seder 2011. I was off on an errand to purchase an afikoman-finder gift. There would be no children with us that night, so we would reverse the numbers in our ages (51=15; 60=6) to identify the three “youngest” who would do the searching. That would require an adult gift for the finder. And so I was on the way to buy the synagogue cookbook as the gift. The synagogue office was some fifteen Manhattan blocks away, and I was speed-walking my way there, hoping to arrive before it closed for the holiday.
On the street, I passed a homeless man with his hand reaching out to me as he asked for money. I knew that the Rema (R. Moshe Isserles, note on Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah, 249:3-5) had taught that it is forbidden to turn away a poor man empty-handed without giving him something, even if it were but a fig. I promised myself that I would give him some money on the way back. I made the same promise as I raced past a second poor man – “on the way back.”
Then I came to a third man, sitting there on the curb. He was the first beggar I’d ever seen in the city wearing a kippah. I slowed my pace as he asked me softly, “Do you have $26?” I smiled to myself and pushed onward. $26?!
I reached the synagogue office just in time. Then with afikoman gift in hand, I was ready to help the three men. I kept thinking about the $26. No one had asked me for so much money before. Such chutzpah! $26?! $26?! And then it came to me. The gematria for Y-H-V-H is 26. In the guise of a poor man, it might have been Elijah reaching out to me.
I retraced my steps, giving money to the first two beggars. But I couldn’t find the man with the kippah. I walked around the area for nearly an hour up and down every side street, before giving up and returning home to finish the preparations for the seder.
Later, I would tell of my experience and donate $26 to tzedakah. I’ll be doing that this Passover, too, but only after I retrace my steps once again to try to find the beggar in the kippah and to invite him to join us.Guest Post, Holidays, Rabbinic sources, Social Justice, Tikkun Olam hassidic tales, Jewish holidays, Passover, Social Justice, stories, Tikkun Olam
3 responses to “The Beggar in the Kippah – A True Passover Tale”
What a wonderful Elijah story! Thanks you so much for sharing this, and just in time for Passover. We all have Elijahs in our lives if only we would see them, Thank you. Thank you.
joel soffin March 22nd, 2012 at 11:40
Thanks, Janie. If you hear of other Elijah stories, I’d love to hear about them.
Pesach Kasher. Joel
Truly inspiring! This story gave so much delight to end a wonderful day. Thank you for the inspiration and keep sharin beautiful things to us!
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