Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Teves 5761 - January 10, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
The Benefactor
by Sudy Rosengarten

Part I

The following is a true story of moral courage, of the uncompromise of values that has become the hallmark of the Bais Yaakov model of the Jewish Daughter.

Abraham Cohen couldn't sleep. He tossed and turned, too tired to make the effort to the bar, too meek to wake his wife. Each time he started to doze, the same haunting image startled him awake: that of his mother, long since dead, with an expression of pained sadness, far more tragic than when she had been alive.

"So, the magnate Abraham Cohen can't sleep!" she cooed in mock concern. "Maybe the conscience is bothering the honored son?"

"Aw, Ma," he said lamely, "You know I'm good at heart."

"A lot good that did the rabbi you threw out of your office yesterday."

"Well, no more such scenes, I promise. I've given strict orders to keep solicitors out."

"Bravo! Brilliant move for the son of a widow who did quite a bit of begging herself. Except that in my days, they didn't wait for the unfortunates to get to their knees, only to be thrown out by the scruff of their necks. In my days they threw the bag of money through the window, so you never knew the face of your benefactor. They placed the box of food at your door so you had no need to be ashamed. But why talk of the past? Today, everything is high style. Today, no solicitors permitted entry. Might sully the rug with their unpolished shoes."

"Oh, Ma. You're being unreasonable."

"Abele darling," his mother sighed. "Time you coined a new phrase. But come now, there must be something troubling me sufficiently to disturb your sleep. You know, whatever happened, your sleep was the one thing I wouldn't tamper with. First I guarded your precious sleep so that you'd be the first and the best in the yeshiva. The gemora kep'l had to be rested. After all, you were the most precious of all Jewish sons. A nachas! A joy!"

"Oh, Ma!"

"Even after you sneaked off to work, I still guarded your sleep. For whom were you making the sacrifice, if not for your very own widowed mother? How fast your climb to success! In no time you had become the envy of all Jewish mothers, the hope of all Jewish widows. Poor orphan makes it rich! And while your old yeshiva friends grew thin and haggard on their measly subsistance, you grew fat and bold, more arrogant with each new venture, more proud with each new success. You hardly noticed them anymore when you came to visit me in the old neighborhood. How embarrassed you were when they greeted you. How annoyed if anyone dared grasp your hand with affection. After all, you had already entered a new world where one didn't mix with plain folk. A world of make believe, where roles were played with such intensity that the actors were never sure who they really were."

"O.K. No complaints. I'm also to blame. My precious Abele could do no wrong. Still, it was easier for me to bame it all on her. She was the influence that led you astray. If it makes us both feel better, we'll put all the blame on her."

"Mama, she's really not so bad," Abraham Cohen protested weakly, looking nervously towards the other bed. "You know, Ma, besides all her other projects, Sally makes sure to give time to Jewish groups alongside the teas, art shows and literary receptions, many of which sponsor Jews anyway."

"I'm very impressed. Tell me more."

"You never really gave her a chance."

"Maybe you're right, Abie. But I'm not keeping her awake, either. It's your soul that I'm after. She can host all the tea parties she wants."

"O.K. Ma, tell me already what you want. You know that I've never refused you anything."

His mother's laughter was so loud that he again looked to the next bed. But the hump there neither moved nor changed its rhythmic sleep sounds.


When Abraham Cohen left the Board meeting the next afternoon, he was radiant with victory.

"Can't say I did bad, myself!" he told the secretary at his heels. "Nicest packaged deal I ever initiated. And it's just the beginning. Take my word. I'll have them eating out of my hand by the next meeting."

He strutted past the receptionist towards his private office suite.

"Mr. Cohen... Please, Mr. Cohen..."

The first thing he noticed was that the rabbi's hat was out of shape and that his beard needed trimming. The voice was deep, almost theatrical, but the effect was ruined by the long unbuttoned black cloak, tieless shirt and flowing sidecurls. A hurried glance at his bulging briefcase immediaely identified him as another collector from the million and one penniless institutions that claimed to be the most important to Jewish survival. He'd really have to take that scatterbrained receptionist to task for letting him in, or she too would be out.

"But Mr. Cohen, this will only take a few minutes and I've already been here five times."

The image of Abraham Cohen's mother suddenly reappeared. The night session with her came back to him in stark clarity. "Too high and mighty to bother with such people," she now rebuked him sadly.

He submitted weakly. "O.K. young man. But remember, no more than a few minutes." He'd let his mother, the suffering soul, have her way, he thought respectfully. Maybe even, he thought in a stroke of brilliance, he'd outdo himself to please her and she'd finally leave him alone.

By the time Rabbi Schwartz left his office an hour later, he had a check in his pocket to cover the bank deficit and a promise from Abraham Cohen, manufacturer of LeChic Sophisticates, President of World Bank, Director of Bradley Exchange, to personally visit his Girls' Hebrew Teachers Seminary the next day.

And inside his office, Abraham Cohen was feeling pretty good about himself. "O.K. Mama," he told his mother, "I'll prove to you that my heart is still beating Jewish and still in the right place, too. I'll take the seediest looking organization and make it shine! You'll see, I'll still give you nachas."

All Rabbi Schwartz could attribute his success to was a miracle. Because it surely was a miracle to have finally gotten to Abraham Cohen and reached through the layers of steel to his good Jewish heart. But how could he ever have agreed that the magnate visit the school the next day with no time even to splash on some paint, screw in some new light bulbs, carry out some refuse, hang up some window shades, or at least wash off some of the grime that had accumulated over the years and made the panes of glass impossibly opaque. The rabbi called an emergency meeting with the twenty-seven seminary students.

"You are aware," he started in his beautiful flow of English, so incompatible with his old-world appearance and outlook, "of the serious financial situation that our school is in. The name Abraham Cohen needs no elaboration. May I merely remind you that the future of this school depends on the impression you make on him."


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.