When I come to stand before the heavenly court, I do not fear the question: “Why weren’t you Moses?” I was not equipped to be Moses. But I tremble for the day that it will be demanded of me: “Why weren’t you Zushe?”
—Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli
Well-worn passport stamped, Louis Vuitton luggage checked, you settle into your first-class seat and close your eyes. Life is hectic but always exciting in the glamorous-giving lane. In ten hours, you will arrive in Israel.
After checking into your five-star hotel—there will be just enough time for a shower, croissants, and an itinerary briefing from your delegation leader, the indefatigable Shirley Keseff, a jet-setting bren feier in four-inch heels.
After your second cup of Turkish brew, you duck into the restroom to drop extra-strength Visine into each eye. Red-eye in photos is unattractive, and the press will be out in droves today.
Four hours from the water bed in your hotel, the remote, mountain-encircled community of Kfar Yeladim will be gifted with a brand-new community center, dedicated in memory of your illustrious grandparents. The center will boast a pool, gym, five classrooms and a cafeteria. What would bubbe and zaide say if they saw you today? Your Yiddish is not as good as theirs, but gevald! You’re an international sensation notwithstanding
Round of applause for you. You’re the glamorous charity giver. You dress like a million dollars, and are worth even more. Your perfect smile is captured over and over again, as the media gobbles up news of your latest charity adventure. There you go, cutting ribbons, accepting honorary doctorates, stepping toward the podium to receive accolades for your latest philanthropic escapade.
And you don’t trip over your shoelaces or sneeze while saying the clever things you do. After all, you’re the glamorous giver. You make giving look easy, breezy and stylish too. In a world of 7 billion people, you are fortunate to be at the cushy end of the giving spectrum. Indeed, this blessing is both privilege and responsibility.
In spite of the snarky, begrudging eye-rollers, you do have your vulnerable, unglorious moments. After all, even a glamorous giver is human and prone to the faults and failures of mankind.
And then there’s the disheveled do-gooder.
You sit in a stuffy doctor’s office, trying not to doze off. You are sitting beside an elderly neighbor who is now all alone, save for the caring neighbor down the hall—who just happens to be you.
The senior neighbor has adopted you and your chicken soup, as well as your couch and folding chair, which is now the only comfortable chair, given her back trouble. A lukewarm bottle of juice flatly rests in the crumpled shopping bag at your feet. You sigh. Life is demanding but fulfilling in the disheveled do-gooder lane.
In two hours, you will roar off in your 1996 Chevy Impala to deliver twenty hot meals. Your meals-on-wheels buddies are grateful recipients and fast friends. Sharing food is a bright spot in your week, each gracious “thank you” a ray of sunshine, feeding your spirit.
Next, you dip into the pharmacy for vitamins. A frail cousin would benefit from vitamin D, and what good are cousins if they can’t produce doses of D during a time of need?
You are rushing. In ten minutes, a children’s library is being launched at the local school. Shoulders straightening with pride, you delight in your earnest donation: two books and a puzzle in honor of great-uncle Sol, voracious reader and puzzle master. Your contribution has been acknowledged with a handwritten note from the school librarian.
Gasp! It’s already 3:30, and you’ve volunteered to cover carpool for a bedridden friend. But the car won’t start, and your cell phone has no battery power.
You fish a few coins out of your glove compartment and race to a pay phone. The carpool is quickly arranged, and another do-gooder bearing jumper cables is en route to your car.
Round of applause for you. You are the busy do-gooder, frantically running in every which direction. Resources are typically meager, and life’s complex variables have you twirling in a tailspin. But you rise, determined do-gooder that you are, and outdo yourself time and time again, disheveled state of affairs notwithstanding.
There you go, waving to the mailman, offering cookies to a crying toddler, wildly clapping in the audience as you celebrate the glorious achievements of a glamorous giver.
And maybe you do trip over your sandals or hiccup while sharing spontaneous words. After all, you’re the disheveled do-gooder. You make giving look zany, quirky and daring. In a world of 7 billion people, you are fortunate too. You are at the sometimes bumpy end of the giving spectrum. Indeed, this blessing is both privilege and responsibility.
In spite of the snarky, begrudging eye-rollers, you do have your polished, picture-perfect moments. After all, even a disheveled do-gooder is human and, as such, a stunning creation of G‑dly perfection.
Editor: What about everyone else?
This Writer: Admitted, I am prone to hyperbole.
Editor: There is a middle ground between the snob and the slob.
This Writer: True. Give me some time to get back to you.
Editor: As soon as you can, please.
This Writer: Indeed, what about the rest of the population? On the benevolence bell curve, so to speak, chances are you are not at either extreme. You haven’t made it onto the Forbes list just yet, but hold your own, thank you very much. At the same time, there are times when—even if your credit card isn’t maxed out—your giving reserves are challenged.
The glamorous giver breathes rarefied air, and the disheveled do-gooder is often out of breath. What about you? What about me?
The sainted Reb Zushe did not concern himself with being Moses, as he was not born to be Moses. Reb Zushe trembled for the day when he would be asked by G‑d if he lived up to his full potential. The unique potential specifically granted to Reb Zushe.
At times, sharing opportunities may appear at our doorstep, neatly wrapped with a shining bow. At other times, the gift is hurled through an open window, perhaps during a thunderstorm at 3:00 AM. Perhaps when we least expected or wanted it.
The glamorous giver breathes rarefied air, and the disheveled do-gooder is often out of breath. What about you?G‑d orchestrates the particular circumstances of each person’s life. Whether we are the glamorous giver, disheveled do-gooder or middle of the road mentch, we have been gifted with all the tools to live up to our full giving potential.
And, like Reb Zushe, we must continually concern ourselves with the vital question:
“Why were you not (insert your name here)?”
When we consistently practice the mitzvah of tzedakah (charity) in our daily lives—utilizing our personal strength, talents and wisdom—we can proudly answer the question we will ultimately be asked:
“Yes, G‑d, I accomplished the noble job of being (insert your name here).”
And if you’ve never heard that round of applause during your lifetime, you will most certainly hear it then.
Originally published on www.chabad.org