Begging to find a beggar
On a recent bustling Friday afternoon in Jerusalem I had an amazing opportunity. A friend asked me to give out money he saved for charity, which he didn’t have time to hand out himself. Happy to take on the job I accepted and headed to the Shuk, the outdoor marketplace.
Walking around with a ‘wad of dough’ in my pocket I suddenly found myself in a quandary: who really needed it? How do you look at a person and decide whether they need money or not? Do you look at the way they dress or smell or if they have bags under their eyes?
Yes, there are regular beggars you get to know around Jerusalem who hang out in the shuk before Shabbat when people are feeling sweetness anticipating the coming Shabbos. These individuals work the crowds, as it’s a time when shoppers are more willing to open up their hearts –and their wallets.
However on this particular day I couldn’t find a real beggar anywhere.
Not near the fish, not near the fruit, not near the crazy baker lady who’s shouting at everyone to buy her goods as the sun looks to be on the downside and everything must go. I concentrated deeply hoping to hear the sound of loose change dancing in a cup or someone sticking their hand in my face saying, ‘l’chavod shabbos’ (to honor Shabbos), give some gelt, (some change)!
I realized I needed to look acutely at my surroundings, as there’s a hidden light in all of us, in everything that exists. I tried like mad to decipher whose light needed a little cash.
That’s when I spotted him. Short, gray and in his 80’s the old man hobbled along barely carrying his groceries. I pondered the situation; perhaps an extra hand would have made more sense than the monetary help that I had in mind. As I stepped forward and moved my hand towards his shirt pocket with a folded bill he stopped me in my tracks almost insulted that I would have the impudent boldness to think he needs assistance! I was shocked. Was this for real? I’m giving away money and I get rejected!
Perhaps I was a suspicious character to him. My sunglasses, my short sleeve shirt, my jeans, my sandals -who was this person behind it all. The experience made me realize I need to be more open and less like a secret service agent.
As I approached the rest of my subjects that afternoon, I discovered they were more curious about whom I was than the fact they were receiving a little gift to help get them into next week. Who was I? Just a beggar trying to give away money; just a messenger for friend; just me having a great Erev Shabbos.