Strange subtitle, no? Unique kind of a book, too. Not a
guide, not a promotional book, non-fiction yet very novel,
entertaining and imaginative. To the uninitiated, very
revolutionary. Not a commercial publication, this 124-pager
is put out by Jewish Heritage and Roots Library. What the
Hidden World is - is an eyeopener. To a magical brave new
world of GIVING.
The very Jewish concept of do-gooding, philanthropy,
altruism, or chessed, as the religious person calls
it, is not fathomable to the `outsider'. The Bronfmans have
tried to present this fascinating fourth dimension of a whole
new utopian wonderland to the uninitiated. (I really think
they believe it can change the world. So will you.) And we,
as insiders, benefit from a wholly new insight into this
beautiful world, and receive a strong impetus to broaden our
own chessed horizons in its full gamut, from money to
hospitality to -- you-name-it always-open-to-suggestions
Your reviewer cannot say it better than the authors
themselves. So here's a fascinating example, verbatim.
FREE LOANING: A REVOLUTION IN RELATING TO PEOPLE AND
Any sensitive, intelligent person can see that modern
society revolves around acquiring material possessions, from
adding a wing to the house to buying a gold pinky ring. This
obsession with acquiring `things' and the money that buys
them, has some serious ramifications, such as fostering a
self-centered and self serving attitude.
Enter the pehnomenon of free loaning. Lend out a book,
an article of clothing, or a sum of money, and see how the
emphasis gets taken off the thing and put on the
people involved in a spirit of one human being happily
helping another. You are now engaged in an interaction that
is free of any hidden agenda for self-aggrandizement or
The closest thing to it is the barter system which
became popular in the late sixties, and still flourishes. In
this system, people decide they want to reduce their reliance
on money through bartering goods and services. If you need
something and I need something, we might be able to make a
But free loaning is something else entirely. It's when
you don't take anything for what you give. You just give.
Imagine a department store unlike any you have ever
encountered. It's the store of your wildest dreams, where
there are no cash registers and no price tags. It suddenly
appears with everything you need at no cost. Some days you're
the customer, and other days you're handing out merchandise.
Suppose you're making an engagement party in your house
for sixty people. You walk into the store with a shopping
list in your mind of everything you need.
You: Hello... Can you help me? I need a set of dishes
for sixty people, but I don't want to buy them. First of all,
I don't need to own all those dishes, and also, I've got no
place for them in my apartment.
Clerk: No problem. You can have the dishes for the
night, and you have to pay absolutely nothing. In fact, you
can choose from one of several patterns. Now, what else do
You: Tables and chairs.
Clerk: Again, no problem. Just order them in the
tables and chairs department. And there's another free
service. They're delivered and later picked up by a free
delivery service. Isn't it unbelievable?
You: I think I'll stick around in this department
store and see what they have that I need for the wedding. Do
you have dresses for brides, and clothing for the bridal
Clerk: What a question! We have a tremendous
selection. Also bridal veils, white shoes and elegant evening
bags. What else do you need?
Clerk: That's our specialty. You can have $500, $1000
and even much larger sums with easy, long term repayment
plans. There's no interest charged. While you're here, I'll
tell you about a few other departments. For those who would
benefit from a mineral-rich mud bath treatment, there's a
free loan of mud from the Dead Sea. If your food spoils on
Shabbos when you can't cook more food, or extra guests
suddenly show up, we can help you. Just step right over there
and pick up whatever you need for you, your family, and your
guests. Cholent, kugel, chicken, soda... If we have
leftovers, we give them to a yeshiva the next day.
In one of our branches, a family freeloans their daily
newspaper. They keep it by their gate, on a ledge under an
awning, and sometimes there are four or five people at a time
looking over each other's shoulders to get a glimpse of the
headlines. Eventually, late in the day, the family brings the
paper into the house. But in the meantime, there are several
dozen people who have leafed through their newspaper.
By the way, we're always looking to open new
departments. If you have any ideas, or anything that is a
specialty of yours, or a dream of yours that you've always
wanted to do, and you want to benefit others with it, we can
open a new department immediately...
It's great shopping in this department sore. The sales
people are friendly and non-coercive. They really want to
help you without any strings attached. You can't remember
being such a satisfied customer.
This idea of free loaning is totally counter-culture. It
blows down the icons of society, because if one thinks about
it, a lot of those icons have to do with money and
conventions. The conventional way of behavior, whether in
buying or bartering, is that you give me something and
I give you something in return. Here, it's all just
Free loans also break down competitiveness. They create
a pure win-win situation. No more win-lose, which
traditionally has been the money-oriented model of business.
Everybody's happy. You're just giving from surplus, or to
fill in somebody else's lack. There's no desire on your part
for any kind of benefit or profit. You just want to be a
giver. And that's very unconventional. In fact, it's
Here, it is people and not things that
matter. When the focus shifts to people, the quality of life
improves dramatically. In the next chapters, we'll explore
specific areas where free loaning has been applied with
wonderful results, even to the point of saving people's
lives. [How about the Hatzola - which is really a hero gemach
in regular clothing!]
It sounds like a utopian society. Or one that exists
only in the World to Come, where there isn't going to be any
money and no stores, no buying and selling.
We'll see that free loaning is happening now in this
world [a good deal of its pacemaking coming "from out of
Zion", they point out, here in Jerusalem], and it's giving us
a taste of the World to Come.
The Baal Shem Tov, King Munbaz, Yad Eliezer, Beged Yad
Leyad Clothing Centers, Free Soup Kitchens, pacifier gemachs,
tapes and book libraries, the adventure of the
hospitality of Shabbos guests, the conventional and the non-
conventional - all march through this fascinating, very
readable, enjoyable and convincing little book, which can be
obtained through the authors at 02-571-1895; HaAdmor
MiLubavitch 23, Jerusalem, or through e-mail:
Welcome to the real Brave New World.