‘Tis an old story about a great charity collector named Pesach who lived in Europe, but lately that old story is giving me a sense of equilibrium in my own life. Story goes as thus. The Holy Reb Pesach found himself in a bind one day, needing to raise a substantial amount of money for a pressing cause. However, he had exhausted his usual donors that day for another cause. That is when he chanced upon a group of drinking, card-playing no-goodniks. With nothing to lose and all to gain, this rabbi asked the rabble-rousers for some money, hoping that somewhere under their booze and banter there might still be a human heart. “Well, rabbi,” said one, “we’ll give you the full amount of monies you need for your charity cause, if we get entertainment out of the deal. We have here a priest costume, and if you agree to parade through town dressed in it, you got yourself your charity money.” The terms were embarrassing, but his cause was pressing, and so, swallowing the shame of it all, Reb Pesach put on the costume and strolled through the town, followed by the drunken bums. When all was done, the rabbi had the money in hand for charity, the drunks went home to sleep it off, and the rabbi was left with a priest costume. He went home and flung the outfit in the deepest, darkest corner of a closet in his home, hoping to forget the burning shame of providing entertainment to bums.
The incident would have stayed hidden in the recesses of his mind and the offending costume in the recesses of his closet had not Reb Chaim of Sanz come visiting to his town. The great sage sniffed the air and said, “Yum, I smell the redolent scent of Gan Eden, of the next world, here in this town.” Like a bloodhound in quest of a quarry, Rabbi Chaim of Sanz followed his olfactory senses until they led him to Reb Pesach’s hovel. He then marched in, continuing sniffing, until he stood in front of the closet and demanded to know what was there that gave off such a spiritually uplifting aroma. There was nothing in that closet other than the costume which had given drunks amusement in exchange for charity. When embarrassed Reb Pesach related the story to the great sage, he was told that his deed would be his ticket into paradise. He was instructed to keep the costume and be buried in it when his time came. And, thus happened.
In 2009 I was not in the best place in my life for various reasons. And then the blogs with much fanfare bashed a rabbinical figure I had known in a way that left no boundaries of justice intact. I agonized as to whether to get involved, not wanting to stick my neck way out for the slaughter. But I knew that one has to speak up in the face of wrong, so I did so, online in blogs. The stench of sewer rose up to greet me with all the disgusting filth of the web blogs. In fact, three years later, those who push this story still make sure my name comes up in Google searches linked to this story (which means that three years later they are actively pushing an agenda).
And, yet, I know I did the right thing. It is my sewer moment, that I am sure has at least a bit of a scent of Gan Eden. There are times we have to do even unpleasant things to make the world a better place.