The X-mas Tree, $100, and a Kiddush Hashem


berel-weinThe following story, related many times by Rabbi Berel Wein, noted rov, historian, author and lecturer, was mentioned by Yonason Rosenblum in a recent article in Mishpacha magazine. In light of the inspirational message and lesson contained in the story, we share it here.

Rabbi Wein was once invited to a meeting with the editor of the Detroit Free Press. After introductions had been made, the editor asked Rabbi Wein whether he was an Orthodox rabbi. Assured that Rabbi Wein was an Orthodox rabbi in good standing, the editor told him the following story.

His mother had immigrated to America from Ireland as an uneducated, eighteen-year-old peasant girl. She was hired as a household servant by an Orthodox family. The head of the house was the president of the neighboring Orthodox shul.

Mary, the servant girl, knew nothing about Judaism, and had probably never met a Jew before arriving in America. The family went on vacation Mary’s first December in America, leaving Mary alone in the house. They were scheduled to return on the night of December 24, and Mary realized that there would be no x-mas tree to greet them when they did. This bothered her greatly, and using the money the family had left her, she went out and purchased not only an x-mas tree but all kinds of x-mas decorations to hang on the front of the house.

When the family returned from vacation, they saw the x-mas tree through the living room window and the rest of the house festooned with x-mas lights. They assumed that they had somehow pulled into the wrong driveway and drove around the block. But alas, it was their address.

The head of the family entered the house contemplating how to explain the x-mas tree and holiday lights to the members of the shul, most of whom walked right past his house on their way to shul. Meanwhile, Mary was eagerly anticipating the family’s excitement when they realized that they would not be without a x-mas tree.

After entering the house, the head of the family called Mary into his study. He told her, “In my whole life no one has ever done such a beautiful thing for me as you did.” Then he took out a $100 bill – a very large sum in the middle of the Depression – and gave it to her. Only after that did he explain that Jews do not have x-mas trees.

When he had finished telling the story, the editor told Rabbi Wein, “And that is why, there has never been an editorial critical of Israel in the Detroit Free Press since I became editor, and never will be as long as I am the editor.”

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  1. But HKB”H the creator of everyone hears everything. We and our children in the buses and in school use phrases like: “Er zol zein ah Kapporoh”, Etc., Etc. why? because a certain person was born to the “wrong mother”.
    HKB”H hears everything and he can CH”V pay us back Middoh Keneged Middoh.
    Why does the writer get excited about an isolated story.

  2. Middoh Keneged Middoh would have to be, Hashem instilling, into them, a Sinah at us. The only thing that comes to mind, is WWII, or the way Muslim children speak about us on their buses. But the writer, actually, was only focusing on how we act in public.
    We tell our children, the better a show and an act they put up, the better a Kiddush Hashem they’ll make.