The world does not rotate on its axis, as is commonly
thought. It spins on three feet, one of which is gemilus
chassodim, be it the money gemachs or the dozens,
if not hundreds, of other gemachs. Just turn to your
local communal directory to see the innovative types of
gemachim that exist, with new ones cropping up all the
time to serve the general public.
Revolve, they all do, somehow or other, whether free loan for
money, loan of specific items, or sale, like clothing
gemachs, which usually revolve as well, in many ways
— the money is recycled for tzedoka and if the
clothes are in good condition when the child has outworn
them, it will find its way back to the gemach as a
donation. If not, the buttons will serve for another garment
. . .
We will focus on one story of a money gemach. One
particularly conscientious gabbai tells the following
story: A man marrying off his children, in debt from previous
weddings with an upcoming one, came to the gemach to
renew a loan and perhaps increase it.
"But you know that there is a three-month waiting period
between one loan and the next. You just finished your last
How about taking out a loan on his married son's name?
Technically, that could only work if the son came in person
to get the loan. "Sorry. But why don't you send him to
The story does not begin to end there. The gabbai
actually called the son and told him the situation. The son,
not burdened with debts like his father, was willing to take
a loan upon himself, pay it back himself through the usual
installments, and even agreed to up the sum from three
thousand dollars to four.
The gabbai then called up the father to inform him
that it was all arranged, and that he was getting a free
Then there is a heartwarming story that took place this past
Chanuka in a clothing gemach. To liven up the Rosh
Chodesh clearance sale (everything for a shekel), the
organizers decided to raffle off a new quilt. The price would
be covered by the shekel charged for the raffle,and the
customers liked the excitement.
Now an aside about these sales: some customers ONLY come on
Rosh Chodesh when they know for sure how many items they can
purchase with the coin or bill they are able to spare. Five
pairs of shoes and five trousers for ten shekel, for example.
Even so, they are willing to `gamble' one shekel on the
raffle, knowing that the money, in any case, goes to the
gemach. So much for the value of a single shekel with
some human nature thrown in.
One woman, naturally, won. When I came in two days later, she
came up to me with a broad smile on her face to thank me. Of
course, I congratulated her, happy that a frequent customer
with a large family had won.
"Actually, I did not keep it for myself," she said. "You see,
since the beginning of the winter, I have bought several good
second-hand quilts and blankets for the family here at the
gemach. I didn't need this new quilt, and so, when I
contemplated laying out a shekel for the raffle, I said to
myself that if I did win, I would give it away to a needy
Mi k'amcho Yisroel!