“There’s folktale about this man who, in Yiddish it’s called, being a “miser”, which means you’re being stingy. And there’s a story about Yossele the Miser, I think. I think it was in eastern Europe somewhere. People would come asking him for money since he was very wealthy, and he would bring them in and ask them what they needed and why. He would listen and then would immediately send them away with nothing. So of course, everyone hated him. Then when he died, no one was really at his funeral. All of a sudden, all these people came to the local synagogue and would tell the rabbi that they used to get all this food and money randomly and now it stopped coming. They couldn’t figure out who was giving it and why it stopped, and eventually they realized this guy was giving it anonymously to them and that’s why it stopped. It kind of was a message saying the best kind of charity is the kind that people don’t know about. My family believes in this, and it’s very big in the Jewish culture. It’s better to be an anonymous donation because then it’s completely unselfish.”
R, the informant, said her grandmother told her this story when she was younger. She said it was a fable because it came with a lesson. It taught kids that the best way to give was to give selflessly, and not ask for any sort of recognition. She said it’s a very popular story in her community and the practice is giving anonymously is highly respected.
This is a common story told within the Jewish community. It’s meant to teach people an important lesson about being selfless and giving without wanting recognition or reward. It seems like it’s a story told within the household by other family members.
This seems similar to other biblical stories and does have an important message. I think it’s an important story for kids to hear, so they grow up understanding how important it is to give selflessly, but also respect those who have given things to you.
For a more detailed verison of the story, visit: http://www.nishmas.org/stories/holymiser.htm