In the story that follows, we see the “Holy Miser’s” reputation restored, after his death! While he was alive, however, everyone assumed he was penny pinching and selfish.
This is a wonderful story that will edify all and remind us about slandering another, or the concept in Hebrew of lashon hara (evil tongue). Of course, when one goes around tooting their own horn about their good deeds, and making a big announcement of their giving, they don’t have to worry about being called selfish, so it is a conundrum. I sort of feel that way when people call my home or other charities that I do not support ask for money. I feel like telling them about all the ones I do support, and what my policy is for not handing money over to solicitors who have no identification etc. After all, I don’t want them to think I’m stingy. It’s an exercise in humility.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” - Jesus of Nazareth (Matt 6:1-4)
(One caveat! Please remember Jesus was a Jewish rabbi speaking to his Jewish disciples within the framework of Jewish life. He was not, I repeat not comparing and contrasting Judaism to Christianity! Just as anyone whose been to church knows there are hypocrites sitting in every pew, there were also hypocrites in the synagogues too–duh!–There are hypocritical medical professionals in hospitals, and law enforcement officers in police precincts, this is nothing new and Jesus is not being anti Jewish!)
“Once upon a time in Krakow there lived a rich Jew. Although he was incredibly wealthy, the Jews of the city referred to him as “the Miser” because he was never willing to contribute to the community’s charity funds, even though in the Jewish world, charity is a great “mitzvah” (good deed). He was completely heartless. As such, when he died, he was buried in the section of the Krakow cemetery near the back wall – a section reserved for the poor, the unfortunate and the nobodies. The same week that the Miser passed away, on the eve of the Sabbath, there was a knock on the door of the chief rabbi of Krakow, Rabbi Yomtov Lipman Heller. In the doorway stood one of the poorer men of the community. He told the rabbi that he had no money with which to purchase wine for the Sabbath. Before the rabbi could give the man some money from the communal fund, there came another knock on the door. Opening it, the rabbi saw another of the poor members of the community, who explained that he had no money to buy challah (the special bread eaten on the Sabbath). Knock followed knock, and soon the rabbi had ten or fifteen men standing on his doorstep who could not afford to buy their families food for the Sabbath. The rabbi asked them all how they had managed to feed their families until then. They explained that they had all bought food on credit from the baker, the winemaker and the grocer for as long as they could remember, but that the arrangement had been terminated, suddenly, that very week. Pondering and stroking his beard, his brow furrowed, the rabbi understood finally – the Miser who had passed away had, in secret, been supporting hundreds of the poorer families of Krakow! Every week he paid the bills of the baker, the winemaker and the grocer, and every week he swore them to secrecy. The rabbi was horrified that he had called the dead man a Miser, when he had fulfilled the mitzvah of giving charity in its highest and most perfect form – anonymously, without taking any credit for it. After publicly apologizing, Rabbi Lipman said that when it was his turn to leave the world, he wanted to be buried next to the Miser on the outskirts of the cemetery. The rabbi’s wishes were respected, and from then on, the Miser was always called the ‘Holy Miser.’”
There are several sources for this story including Chabad, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and others.