The Wanderer and the Miser / Sal Fishman and the Drifter

Rav Berg (2008)

Sal Fishman was, without a doubt, the most miserly man from town. He was also very rich and arrogant.

One day, while leaving his uptown office, he saw a beggar without a home, camping on the sidewalk, sitting down in the salt.

He used to simply ignore these kinds of scenes, but that one night he felt like a “good person,” and he decided, in a brazen act of self-rejoicing, to throw impolitely a few coins down to the old man.

Then, something happened that Sal hadn’t anticipated: the tramp returned his coins, politely rejecting them. “I’d rather win my own money in life the same way as everyone else,” explained the homeless man.

For probably the first time in his life, Sal, he felt embarrassed and bewildered by the obvious dignity of that man. “Look, I’m a rich man,” replied Sal. “these coins mean much more for you than for me.”

But the tramp continued to reject them. “Please don’t take it personally. I appreciate your kindness; but I feel compelled to make my own effort to get out of this unfortunate situation I find myself in. I cannot accept the money from you.”

Irritated now by the humiliation he began to feel, Sal began to sweat. He felt uncomfortable and humiliated in a way he had never experienced before.

Impulsively, he took the checkbook out of his wallet, he wrote down a large sum of money and extended the check to the old man, all while he begged him to please accept that gift of charity.

But the vagabond remained firm in his position of him. “I can’t accept it,” he declared. “I have not much money, but I do have self-esteem. Please, don’t think I will just snatch it! I’m sorry I can’t accept your generous gift. I know you will understand.”

At that moment, Sal was mortified by all the years of shameful behavior and [mindless] self-indulgence he had lived.

Sal’s anguish and pain did not pass unnoticed by the vagabond, who, intuitively and well-intentioned, he realized that he had the power to remove the pain of that rich man.

“Sorry, sir, but I’ve changed my mind, said the tramp. “I will accept the money from you, and I appreciate deeply the generosity you are showing.”

To his amazement, Sal Fishman then felt an overwhelming sense of relief, followed by a satisfaction as deep and indescribable as he had never before experienced. And think that he felt this way because finally an old man homeless man had accepted a large donation from money from him!

Finally, Sal Fishman shook his head in a gesture of admiration before that homeless man who lived on the sidewalk, tipped his hat with respect and continued on his way.

This story leads us to ask an important question: Who staged the act of sharing, Sal Fishman or the tramp? Upon receiving the money, the tramp was imparting his own gift to the rich man. In kabbalistic terms, this is called Receiving with the Purpose of Sharing. When the act of receiving imparts pleasure to the giver, receiving becomes sharing. The exceptional of everything this is that by sharing, the tramp also received what he truly needed. He was able to accept the money without losing his dignity because suddenly, his act of receiving was genuinely an act of sharing. The sharing was unconditional and without hidden personal interests.

At first, Sal Fishman’s desire to share was not genuine, as Sal did not believe that he himself could benefit from giving a donation to the homeless. Quite the contrary, he felt superior, a “good person”. His actions were cold, indifferent, arrogant, and hypocritical. Sal was getting something by throwing his coins to the homeless. He had an interest of his own. He was feeding his ego at the expense of that poor old man. But when confronted with the response worthy of that homeless man, Sal experienced his own shame crisis. Suddenly, Sal no longer wanted to feed his ego, but he really wanted to give unconditionally. And when he did, he received relief from the pain that tormented him, followed by the happiness of unconditional giving and a new respect for someone he had considered despicable.

And this is the ultimate paradox: at the time Sal was willing to receive nothing by his action, he was able to receive what he really needed. Similarly, once the wanderer was willing to sacrifice his sense of dignity for the purpose of sharing, he was also able to receive both the satisfaction of ease Sal in his pain, as well as a helpful gift in form of money.



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