The JDC, The Joint Distribution Committee, was a Jewish relief organization founded in 1914 through a $50,000 donation from Jacob Schiff, a Reform Jew. The JDC was involved in relief work and provided financial help to the great Yeshivas in Europe. Although the organization was founded and run by Reform Jews, they attempted to help all Jews who needed assistance.
In October of 1929, after the Stock Market Crash, the world descended into the Great Depression. The JDC was forced to limit its financial assistance, including its aid to the Yeshivos.
As the financial support to the Yeshivas decreased, some of the yeshiva directors felt that the Joint should continue to prioritize the yeshivos in the allocation of its now limited funds. They felt that directing money to other causes other than supporting the yeshivas was indicative of the Joint’s bias against the yeshivos.
They decided to approach the Chofetz Chaim. They asked him, “Rebbe, the Joint wants to eliminate funding to the yeshivos. What should we tell them? How should we protest this terrible decree?” The Chofetz Chaim looked surprised at the question and answered, “What should you tell them? You should tell them “thank you” for all the support they have given these last fifteen years. They are not frum Jews, yet, they supported yeshivos; we must show them Hokoras HaTov, gratitude. Never forget there is no limit to Hokoras HaTov.”
The Chofetz Chaim was famous for his trait of Hokoras HaTov. He particularly stressed this middah to his family. Fast-forward almost a century and across the Atlantic to Passaic/Clifton.
The world has been in the throes of the pandemic for over a year. Our Shul removed almost three-quarters of the chairs from the three Batei Medrash to maintain social distancing. The Shul was sparsely populated and looked and felt barren. Finally, the day arrived, and with the permission and encouragement of our medical expert, the seats could be reset to pre-pandemic mode.
The issue was how to organize a team to reset the three Batei-Medrash to their original form. Hundreds of chairs needed to be moved. The gabbai asked for volunteers. However, the job would be grueling and challenging and was not a job for middle-aged, out-of-shape men.
The appointed time arrived, and the gabbai looked worried. “How will the seats be moved?”
Suddenly, as if malachim dropped from Shomyaim, a group of Bachurim from the Mesivta of Clifton arrived and began a coordinated and systematic effort. In a matter of minutes, all three Batei Medrash were restored to their pre-Covid places.
I know these boys. They learn in the Shul every Friday night and Shabbos day. They are Masmidim. Although they came during their lunch break, each one of them has an additional Seder during that time. They sacrificed their own precious learning time to help out the Shul.
That evening, I spoke to their Rebbe. “I am so grateful to you. Your boys are shining examples of what a Ben Torah should be. Thank you so much for coming with them to set up the Shul.”
The Rebbe looked at me surprised as he said, “What do you mean? Every Friday night and Shabbos, you allow us to use the Shul for learning. We benefit greatly from the Shul; isn’t it only right that we give back to the Shul when it needs our help. Is Hokoras HaTov a small thing?”
I looked at the Rebbe, and suddenly it dawned on me. “Rabbi Yaakov Mordechai Zaks, aren’t you an Einekel – a direct descendent- of the Chofetz Chaim?” Rabbi Zaks smiled and said, “Yes, I am, and as I have heard many times from my father who heard from his mother and she from the Chofetz Chaim, “Never forget there is no limit to Hokoras HaTov.”