Even Her Taking Was Giving

Grade Level: 
9, 10, 11, 12
Even Her Taking Was Giving
Generosity of Spirit
A Jewish Tale: A generous woman whose home was open to all visitors, once borrowed money from her neighbor. When asked by her son why she had borrowed it, she explained that it was so her neighbor would never feel ashamed of coming to her if he was in need. Allowing others to give is also a form of generosity.

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Hayya Schechter was a pious woman whose home in Tel Aviv was open to all, like the legendary home of Abraham and Sarah. There was never a day when she and her husband did not have guests. Rabbis, rebbes, and simple people alike all ate at their table, and everyone was treated like a king or queen. Some guests lived in the house for months at a time; sometimes there were ten such guests, at other times as many as thirty! And all of them were made to feel as if they were in their own home.

Hayya was always ready to give everything she had to another human being. She had reached perfection in kindness, and her giving was done wholeheartedly and joyfully.

Another aspect of her perfection in kindness was reported by one of her sons, who said that his mother had once sent him to borrow some money from a neighbor. When he returned with the money in hand, she took the envelope with the money in it from him, placed it somewhere, and never even opened it.

Her son asked, "Mother, why did you borrow the money if you didn't want to use it?"

"I did it," she explained, "so that our neighbor won't be ashamed to borrow from us when he's in need."

Hayya Schechter had an open home, an open heart, and an open hand. The Torah says that God is "compassionate and gracious." The usual English translation of the Hebrew "hanun" is "gracious," but that word is antiquated. A better translation would be that God is "giving." Hayya Schechter was "giving," and added to that was her refined sensitivity—to act so that no one would be ashamed to take. Like some other holy people, even her taking was giving.


“Even Her Taking Was Giving.” Buxbaum, Yitzhak. Jewish Tales of Holy Women. San Fransisco, California: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Company, ©2002. pp. 89-90. 

This material is used by permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. www.wiley.com