I recently listened to a wonderful shiur by Rabbi Paysach Krohn called "Teshuva, Tefillah, Tzedakah."
Chazal teach us that "teshuva, tefillah, and tzedaka" will save a person on Yom Hadin.
I always viewed the "tzedaka" part of it as giving charity (read: money). Rabbi Krohn emphasized the importance of doing chessed, not just giving money. Tzedaka is also giving & doing chessed. I really never thought of it that way, so it was a big chiddush for me.
Some great points from the powerful shiur:
-Tzedaka is all about stopping to think about yourself. There's nothing wrong about thinking about yourself, but we have to think about others.
-A chilling story about tremendous chessed out of love:
Rav Simcha Wasserman, the son of the big tzaddik Rav Elchanan Wasserman, was a big talmid chacham who never had children. He loved his wife dearly, and she loved him dearly. Rebbetzin Feigel Wasserman, his wife, said "I hope we both live forever, but if not, then I want to die first because I can't live one day without my Rav Simcha." Then, as she got older, she changed her mind & said "I hope that we live together forever until after Mashiach comes, but in case we don't, then I don't want to die first. Because who would sit shiva for Rav Simcha? We don't have any children. I want to be the one to sit shiva for him with proper kavod."
The amazing thing is that Rav Simcha was niftar on bet Cheshevan. She sat shiva for 7 days, and then 3 days later she passed away. She passed away exactly 10 days after her husband. HaShem allotted her that time so that she can properly give kavod to her husband, as she so much wanted to.
-Rav Shlomo Lawrence, who already had a burial plot bought in har hazeitim said that he wanted a burial plot bought near Rav Wasserman. He said "who usually comes to visit as person's kever? A person's children and descendants. Rav Simcha didn't have any children, and I do have children, so I want it to be that my children will come visit my kever and then also visit Rav Simcha, since we will be buried right next to each other." And 17 years later, after Rav Lawrence's passing, that's exactly what happened.
Rebbetzin Wasserman thought only of her husband. That is a row in the graveyard that shows us true chessed and thinking of others, even when you won't get anything "back" in this world by doing that chessed!
-A woman went to pay a shiva call to a woman she never met. Before leaving, she said "tell me something about your husband." His wife said "my husband never delayed a chessed. Any time someone asked him for a favor or if he would help someone, he would always do it right away. He wouldn't delay the chessed."
This lady left, and as she was driving, she saw a woman sleeping in her car. She figured "oh, she's probably just tired while waiting to pick up one of her children from the bus top."
She wanted to continue driving, saying it's none of her business.
But no. Her conscience told her that something didn't look right about this sleeping woman...the way her face looked... the way he head was tilted. She remembered what the lady sitting shiva told her: "my husband never delayed a chessed."
So, she called hatzalah and said "there's a lady here, and I'm just not sure if she's sleeping or if something is wrong. Can you please come and check if she's all right?"
Hatzalah came and told her "you saved this woman's life. She was in diabetic shock. If she would've remained in the car for another 20 minutes, she would've died."
The woman was stunned. She saved this woman's life.
A few months later, she received another call. The diabetic woman was pregnant. So she really saved two lives. How? All by just opening her eyes and noticing a stranger and caring enough to make a phone call for a MAYBE dangerous situation.
All of that because she didn't push off a chessed.
Similar to my other post, this teaches us not to push off any opportunities of closeness to HaShem.
It reminds me of a story. I once asked my Rav if I have to give to every person who asks for tzdaka. This would come up often at a certain place that I would go to, where there would be around 10 people who would ask for tzdaka. So I asked if I should give some of those people, all of those people, or none of those people every time that I go? I said, on one hand, I feel terrible refusing someone who is needy, but on the other hand, is there a "limit"?
My Rav said there is no chiyuv to give them, since it is uncertain what those people use the money for, and if they are actually needy, but it is nice to give to one or two occasionally.
FFWD to when I met my (now) husband. We were dating and still getting to know each other, and we would go to this place often.
I noticed that he would give tzdaka to every single person who asks.
Now, my husband was a yeshiva bachur at the time and didn't exactly have a lot of money. I was stunned how, at this place, he gave tzdaka every single time anyone asked him (this happened over 30 times until I brought it up in conversation).
So I told him what my Rav said, and he said "I know there's no chiyuv, but every day, I pray to HaShem for opportunities to be close to him. Giving to a person, even if he's not needy, is an opportunity to get closer to HaShem."
I was blown away by his answer. I took my Rav's psak so literal. I didn't even bother to think into the benefit of doing something that isn't a chiyuv. How it would improve ME. How it would make ME more sensitive. How it would make ME a better Jew to give to a person who asks.
Chessed is not thinking just about ME. But through not thinking about myself, I'm actually helping myself! It's about opening my eyes to others. Feeling the pain of others. Worrying about others. Even if it's only a potential risk - like the lady "sleeping" in her car. Maybe she is just sleeping! But maybe she's not? And that's a big maybe. A scary maybe.