Parshas Re’eh – The Benefits of Giving

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Re’eh, we are commanded regarding the mitzvah of giving tzedaka (charity). 

כִּי-יִהְיֶה בְךָ אֶבְיוֹן מֵאַחַד אַחֶיךָ, בְּאַחַד שְׁעָרֶיךָ, בְּאַרְצְךָ, אֲשֶׁר ה’-נֹתֵן לָךְ–לֹא תְאַמֵּץ אֶת-לְבָבְךָ, וְלֹא תִקְפֹּץ אֶת-יָדְךָ, מֵאָחִיךָ, הָאֶבְיוֹן – If there shall be a destitute person among you, of one of your brothers in any of your cities, in your land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you, you shall not harden your heart nor shall you close your hand against your destitute  brother; כִּי-פָתֹחַ תִּפְתַּח אֶת-יָדְךָ, לוֹ; וְהַעֲבֵט, תַּעֲבִיטֶנּוּ, דֵּי מַחְסֹרוֹ, אֲשֶׁר יֶחְסַר לוֹ – Rather, you shall surely open your hand to him, and you shall surely grant him enough for his lack, which is lacking for him…נָתוֹן תִּתֵּן לוֹ, וְלֹא-יֵרַע לְבָבְךָ בְּתִתְּךָ לוֹ – you shall surely give him, and let your heart not feel bad when you give him, for because of this matter Hashem will bless you in all your deeds and in your every undertaking (Devarim 15:7-8,10).

Rashi (ibid) teaches that the poor of your city take precedence over the poor of another city; that you must open your hand to give even many times; that if he does not want to accept it as a gift, you should give it to him as a loan; that you must even supply him with a horse upon which to ride if he used to be wealthy, and a servant to run ahead of him; and that the mitzvah of giving to the poor includes finding for him a wife (Kesubos 67b). 

About his grandfather, the gadol and gaon olam R’ Chaim Soloveitchik of Brisk zt’l, R’ Soloveitchik relates, “R’ Chaim was concerned with the outcasts of society.  If there was an unwed mother in town, he took it as his personal responsibility to find her a husband.

“R’ Chaim received a salary of about 75 rubles a week.  His wife said he should ask for a raise.  He asked for 90, but was refused.  Even though he got just 75 rubles a week, if an ani (pauper) came to the door he would give away his entire paycheck.  He had no concept of keeping money for himself.  His wife had to hide it away from him.

“R’ Chaim once made an enemy this way.  A rich gevir (distinguished and important person) gave R’ Chaim an expensive platter of exotic fruits for mishloach manos.  As the gevir was leaving, an ani came to the door, and R’ Chaim gave him the entire basket” (The Rav Thinking Aloud, p.14-15).

It is the natural inclination of man to think “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is yours.”  And yet, while at face value, this may not seem so terrible, the Sages (Avos 5:10) teach that this is middas Sodom (the ways of the wicked, stingy, people of Sodom). 

What’s so terrible about “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is yours” is that we are grossly mistaken if we think “what’s mine is MINE.”  For what’s mine does not belong to me at all; what’s mine is actually G-d’s and what’s your is also G-d’s! 

Though today I may have, and you do not, tomorrow, the tables may just turn.  For it is Hashem – and only Hashem – Who owns all that we have.  מוֹרִישׁ וּמַעֲשִׁיר; מַשְׁפִּיל, אַף-מְרוֹמֵם – Hashem makes one poor and one rich; He lowers down and raises up (Shmuel I 2:7). 

And so, as the Sages teach, though we think we are doing for the pauper when we bestow gifts and charity upon him – be it food, clothing, money, occupation or a wife – in fact, he is doing far more for us, in enabling us to be a conduit for good, in sharing what G-d has given us with others.  Through giving to others, the wellspring of blessings open up for us in return… for because of this matter Hashem will bless you in all your deeds and in your every undertaking.

The Ba’al HaTurim teaches (Devarim 15:8) – פָתֹחַ (you shall open your hand):

שאם תפתח לו ידך, יפתחו לך שערי שמים כדי שיקובל תפלתך. ואם לאו ,לא יפתחו לך  That if you open your hand to the poor, the gates of Heaven will be opened for you, to accept your prayers.  But if you do not open your hand, the gates of prayer will not be opened for you

Furthermore, Rashi teaches (15:7) that if you do not open your hand and give to him, in the end, you will be destitute like him.

The reality of giving is that in helping others, we are, ultimately, helping our very own selves. 

Henny Machlis a’h taught, “Let’s say you have $100 and suddenly there’s a knock on your door and it’s a poor person.  You take $10 out of your wallet and you give it to this poor person.  How much money do you have left? 

“It sounds like a joke, right?  What’s your answer?  Probably you’ll say $90.  No, you have $10 left.  Why?  Because the other $90 you are going to spend on your groceries, you’re going to pay your bills, you’re going to waste it on whatever.  But those $10 that you gave to the poor person, they stay with you forever and ever and ever” (Emunah with Love and Chicken Soup, p.160-161).

R’ Chaim of Sanz (1793–1876) would distribute his money to tzedaka.  His son asked him “My father and teacher, have we not learned that one who gives money to tzedaka must not give more than a fifth of his possessions (Kesubos 77a)?” 

His father replied, “What does that refer to?  To one who perceives his gifts to tzedaka as dispersing the money.  This does not apply to one who sees the contribution of his money to tzedaka as an investment.  For such a one, the limit of one fifth does not apply” (Tales of the Righteous, S. Raz, p.205-206).

May we always merit to be on the giving end, and may we do so with the humility, grace, dignity and respect that each and every person deserves – whether they are giving or receiving.  For nothing in this world is truly ever ours.

בברכת שבת שלום וחודש טוב,

Michal

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