The Joy of Giving

Dealing with Israeli kiruv for the past seven years, I have witnessed many inspiring moments, some of which brought tears to my eyes. This is one of them: A few weeks ago, I discussed parshas Noach and the deeds of Cham, the son of Noach, at our Thursday night shiur. Cham was very concerned that he would have to share the entire universe with his two brothers. For him, it looked like an almost impossible task. In order to bring out the point that Hashem created us with a strong desire to earn and possess as much as possible, I tied in a bit of history. I told my class about Alexander the Great, who is mentioned both in history books and the Talmud. He led a powerful army to conquer the entire known world.

Although he was the mightiest king that had ever lived, he died in his early thirties as a depressed and empty person. Why? Because his soldiers did not want to fight any more. They did not feel there was any purpose to capturing and owning more and more countries. For Alexander the Great, life had no more challenges, and so he had no reason to live. I reiterated this concept with my own experience. As a sonographer, I once examined a man well into his 90s, who was a wealthy investor. Speaking to him, I discovered that although he had every reason in the world to be "happy, " he was in fact someone who no longer saw a purpose in living. Actually, he was disappointed that his test showed that he was 100 percent healthy. He told me that he had no more challenges.

In contrast, I told my students, Torah Jews who have been taught bederech hatorah, know that one may live a life poor in material possessions yet be the happiest man alive! I told them about a family I know that lives a very simple life in New York. They have a house full of children and simcha, but it is a small house with only the bare necessities. This family gets its happiness from giving and doing for others. Every Friday night, as the family gathers around the Shabbos table, the father goes outside to see if there are any Jews who have no place to eat, and he invites them inside. You will never see this father without a smile from ear to ear.

Although they could find many reasons to complain and be unhappy, you will always see them besimcha and content. For example, I told my students, this family does not even own a car. With a large family, this makes life extra challenging, especially when they have to go out of the New York area and do not have a means of transportation. I concluded by saying that, as we all know, happiness is not something you can "buy" by possessing more and more. Real happiness is living a life of Hashem's values, as taught in the Torah, and experiencing the joy of giving to others.

After the shiur, Yossi, a local car dealer (owner of Pikesville Automotive and Worldwide Cars) who is a regular shiur attendee, came over to me and asked, "Is this family really in need of a car?" After I confirmed their situation, Yossi continued, "I would like to donate a minivan to this family. Do you think they would be willing to take it from me?" For a moment I was puzzled, but then I reminded myself that I should not be surprised, as Yossi is always a man who is running to do chesed although he is not fully observant.

A week later, the minivan was delivered to the thrilled and appreciative family in New York. Weeks went by and the matter was forgotten until, one afternoon, Yossi told me that he had just received a letter from that family which brought both him and his wife to tears, tears of joy, the joy of giving.

The letter said: "From the bottom of our heart, we'd like to express our tremendous appreciation for the very special gift you gave us our very own minivan! Of course it is a tremendous convenience and once we get used to it, it's hard to picture how we managed without it. But much more importantly, you gave our children something that money cannot buy security. Last Friday, there were no school buses and I drove my children to school. When my daughter came out of the front door to get into the van, her smile said it all. She was like 'everyone else'. May Hashem grant you long and healthy years filled with "nachat" from your family and lots of success in your business always.

Kol tuv!
Yoni Alon