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Coffee Check

Friday, 17 January, 2020 - 8:31 am

Two weeks ago my friend Yankel*, who’s had a rough year, gave me a call. Yankel is a lawyer and for some reason 2019 was a hard year for him financially. He asked to meet with me on December 31st, and imagine my surprise when he presented me with a check for $1800! I was stunned. I knew that was a huge amount of money for him. I’ve known him for long enough to know how generous he is, but I also knew it had been a challenging year for him monetarily, so how or why was he donating $1800?! 

He explained that he had been listening when I talked about tzedakah in my High Holiday sermon. I mentioned that everyone is obligated to give something, regardless of their financial situation. Young, old, rich, poor… no one is exempt. And it led him to wonder how he could give. 

I was definitely pleased and touched that at least one person listened to my sermon and was even moved to do something practical!  

So how did he pull it off?

Yankel loves his coffee. Any coffee lover knows how important that caffeine is for your day! I mean, I love my morning coffee, too. But Yankel does not drink just any coffee: he relishes the fresh coffee he buys from his favorite coffee shop in Brooklyn for $5.50 every day.

So he made a calculation. Let me sacrifice my coffee in order to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah. 

And he did.

Instead of the delicious store-bought coffee, he has been drinking instant coffee in his office. It doesn’t taste the same, but the joy he received when he was able to give that charity tasted better than any $5.50 coffee ever could. 

Moreover, when he told his wife Rochel* what he was doing, she joined him in his effort and together they saved $11 per day, leading them to present me with the $1800 check on December 31st!

I was absolutely speechless. Not only did he listen to my sermon and take it to heart, he sacrificed every single day to fulfill this important mitzvah. It’s incredible. 

In Kabalistic terminology, this is known as “iskafya.” Iskafya is the term we use when a person sacrifices for a mitzvah. It’s the term we use when someone stretches beyond the norm, beyond the regular, to do a mitzvah. Exactly what my friend Yankel did.

Chassidism teaches that when a person has iskafya, it draws G-d’s Divine presence down into this world. It is the most powerful expression a person can do.

So my message to Yankel is, thank you! In the merit of his tremendous sacrifice, I wish him and his wife good health, success, nachas from their family, and financial freedom in 2020 and beyond. 

*Names changed to protect privacy.

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