There was once a country club, WASPy upper-crust, a fancy place. It had an unwritten rule that no Jews were allowed. One day a Rabbi walks in to the lobby and sits down on a posh elegant Victorian-style sofa. He looked very out of place. His clothes were torn and unclean, his hat was crooked and his beard disheveled and unkempt. He held out a charity can. The members were aghast. They felt violated! How dare he!? But they were too outwardly polite and proper to say anything. They turned the other way and held their noses in the air.

A little while later a priest walked in. He was thin, tall and distinguished. His collar was a dazzling white, starched and prim. He sat down on the other side of the lobby and held out a plate. Most of the country club members weren’t particularly religious, and most were protestant and not catholic, but to spite the obnoxious, sloppy Rabbi on the other side, they kept shoving large sums of cash into the priests plate. The Rabbi got nothing. Not even a nickle.

One county club member happened to be Jewish, but had long since changed his name and wasn’t known his fellow members as Jewish. He was deeply troubled by the Rabbi sitting there. During a lull in lobby traffic, he quickly went over to the Rabbi and whispered in his ear: “Rabbi, why are you here? These people will never give you anything! They wouldn’t give a priest either and are only giving to him to spite you. Please Rabbi, go away, you are only giving our people a bad name…”

The Rabbi looked up and called out to the priest on the other side of the lobby: “Moshe,” he said, “he’s telling me how we should run the business!!”


Okay, its just a joke. But there’s actually a serious point to be made here. Like some other jokes, all it takes is a tiny tidbit of info to transform the entire story. Once we know the priest and Rabbi are in cahoots and in this together, it changes everything. It’s a totally different picture now.

I tell this joke to illustrate how a little Torah learning can be transformative. It changes everything.

This year on Yom-Kippur we told it in connection with our “Hakhel Appeal” showing how a few words of Torah, a song, a blessing or a prayer, and even small acts of charity and kindness – can take any gathering and kick it up a notch, transform it into a Hakhel gathering.