The Millionaire Sitting Behind Me

The Millionaire Sitting Behind Me

A neighbor recently invited me to join her at a charity Chinese auction.

I really wanted to go with her, but there was one complication. This neighbor was planning to buy a $25 dollar ticket so, as a “Sponsor,” she would be entitled to sit in the front row and receive free 10 raffle tickets.

I had been planning to buy a “General Admission” ticket for $10, because my husband receives an educator’s salary, and because I was educated from a very young age to never, ever show off–and that’s exactly what sitting in the front “Sponsor” row would feel like to me.

But, in the end, I decided to join my neighbor as a “Sponsor,” and here’s why…

Like all Rabbi Nivin-ites (Nivin-ettes?) every year before Rosh Hashana I write up a list of my goals for the coming year. And a major goal of mine for this year is : “Connecting more deeply with people I like in my new neighborhood.”

If I would have bought a $10 ticket, I would still have been supporting an important charity. I would have still enjoyed the show. But I would have missed a chance to get to know this neighbor, and work towards my goal for the year…

So in the end, I bought a “Sponsor” ticket, and I had such an amazing time!

I sat with my neighbor, and I found out about her INCREDIBLY fascinating life story. And I won some amazing prizes in the Chinese auction–a massage, a private lesson with a makeup artist, and a book for my kids. And I even realized a personal dream– I met my favorite writer for the 1st time (I figured out it was her when they announced her as a fellow prize winner!)

But something else happened at the Chinese auction that was gut-wrenchingly embarrassing, which I want to share with you, and which is the reason I’ve written up this whole story…

At one point during the performances, I turned around and realized I was sitting in front of an acquaintance who is one of the wealthiest people in Israel.

So I motioned for her to sit next to me in the front row. But she shook her head and said, “No, I can’t sit there. I bought a regular ticket.”

I was shocked. This woman could have easily bought a ticket for every seat in the hall. Didn’t she know this is an excellent charity that needs her money?

But then, I had a second thought…she and her husband are extremely modest people. Looking at them, nobody would ever guess by the way they dress and act and live that they have tens of millions of dollars in their bank account. They give huge amounts of money to charity, but always in a quiet way. They never, ever show off.

And there I was, Chana Jenny Weisberg, in the front row. Showing off.

And for days and weeks after the auction, I was not able to shake that feeling of humiliation I felt. My acquaintance the millionaire, I figured, had probably given an anonymous donation to this worthy cause, or donated a fancy cake for the buffet, and then sat in the second row so nobody would know it was from her.

She had been modest and I had been tacky.

She had done the right thing, and I had done the wrong thing.

And that stung. Badly.

But last night, on the way to my free make-up lesson, feeling queasy yet again as I remembered the Chinese auction, a different thought popped into my head…

One of my acquaintance’s top priorities, I realized, is not flaunting her fantastic wealth.

And that, for obvious reasons, doesn’t need to be a priority of mine.

My priority is to make new friends in my new neighborhood. Which I accomplished by buying a $25 ticket and sitting in the front row.

And that means that while she did one thing and I did the opposite…

Both of us made the best possible decision, she and I, in the whole world.


  1. Wonderful post! Perspective and priority are so important! It is very tough to figure out your own and not borrow another’s … so good job!

  2. Shulamis Silverman

    This was just a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing! This is what we women need to hear/share with one another, how introspection makes a big impact. Honesty, being real and making a 100% effort to be our best selves. Good job!

  3. I applaud your honesty (and wisdom)!

  4. Love the story so much- so true!!! Thanks for sharing!
    Ps-I couldnt stop laughing when you wrote, ” Rabbi nivin-ites” hehehehe!!!!

  5. beautiful as always and so so wise!
    but who is your favourite writer????

  6. Yes, tell us your favorite writer. I felt your pain as you were second guessing yourself. But as you said, your reason for sitting up front wasn’t to show off! Why be hard on yourself? I am glad that you enjoyed the evening, the prizes, and most importantly the lesson you gained (as well as fodder for an article) from the whole event!

  7. Thank you so so much for this insight. I have to replay your message in my head – she did one thing, and you did the opposite, and you both made the right decisions.

  8. Beautiful insight! So important to recognise that each person has his unique task in serving Hashem,so don’t look at what anyone else is doing. Your true story certainly brings that lesson home in a pleasant yet non-forgetable way.

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