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Lessons We Live With: The Rebbe’s 25-Cent Lesson

Ahead of Gimmel Tammuz, Lubavitch.com asked Shluchim to share a teaching of the Rebbe that informs their approach to shlichus, and their lives. 

On a Sunday in the late-80s, my father took us to New York to meet the Rebbe. Each Sunday, thousands of people from all walks of life stood in a “receiving line” to be blessed by the Rebbe. They would also receive a dollar bill from him to pass on to charity.

As my brother Sholom Ber and I stood in line and the wait stretched on, my father tried to keep us patient. He gave us each a quarter, assuring us that we would later go to the candy store and buy gumballs.

The line sped up, and before we knew it, we stood in front of the Rebbe. The Rebbe gave my brother the usual blessing and a dollar. But instead of walking to the exit, my brother took out the quarter for candy and gave it to the Rebbe. I think my brother thought, “You gave me your dollar for charity, so I want to give charity with my money.”

My brother’s sweet gesture was spontaneous and out of the ordinary, yet the Rebbe took it very seriously. He signaled to an aide for a box to be brought — used for gifts brought by dignitaries such as books, plaques, keys to cities, and the like — and motioned to place my brother’s quarter in it.

Observing the scene, I decided to do the same with my coin. Once again, the Rebbe asked for it to be placed in the special box.

That 25-cent lesson still reverberates with me today.

We live in a world that can seem cold and heartless. When someone decides to embark on a positive journey, there are often voices that are quick to throw cold water on their efforts: what difference will your tiny action make? Nothing will really change — it’s just a drop in the bucket.

The Rebbe showed my brother and me on that day that when someone shows a spirit of goodness, it should be encouraged and cherished. The smallest good deed matters, even in the face of what seems to be overwhelming odds. Every drop makes a ripple, and every ripple builds a wave. A positive action, even small, will add up and bring us closer to a world saturated with goodness.

Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin is the Outreach Director of Chabad of Tucson, Arizona.

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