Story for Shabbat

A Tainted Donation

Why did Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov Kanievsky refuse to receive $20,000 to distribute to the poor and then, minutes later, change his mind?

A Tainted Donation

The Steipler Gaon, Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, was born in Ukraine in 1899. He later moved to Eretz Yisrael, where he lived until his passing in 1985.

Every year the Steipler received $20,000 from two brothers who lived in America; the money was to be distributed to the poor under the Steipler’s guidance. One year, when the gabbai came to bring the money, the Steipler refused to accept it.

“This money isn’t kosher,” he said as the gabbai held out the envelope. “I cannot take it. Please give it back.”

Bewildered, the gabbai called one of the brothers and explained what had happened. “The Steipler Gaon refuses to accept your money. He says it isn’t kosher.”

The man was silent for a moment and then replied, “Give me a few minutes.”

A few minutes later the man called him back. “Okay, now you can give Rav Kanievsky the money.”

The gabbai returned with the envelope and handed it to the Steipler. This time the Steipler smiled and accepted it. The gabbai couldn’t believe his eyes. Curious, he called up the brother to tell him what had happened and to ask for an explanation.

“My brother and I own a business together,” the man said. “Every year we make a joint donation of $20,000 to help support the poor in Israel. This past year my brother and I weren’t speaking to each other, but despite our estrangement I knew he would still want to keep our yearly tradition and seed the money. I sent off the money without consulting him. That is why the Steipler refused to accept it.

“When I heard this, I immediately called my brother and told him what had occurred. It was the first time we’d spoken in months, and we apologized to each other and made amends.”

The gabbai now understood. The money, in effect, had been stolen since the two brothers had not consulted about it, and in addition, it had been tainted by discord. Such money cannot be used for charity.

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