Good Shabbos wonderful readers!  I hope that this week’s parsha post may be a zechus for a refuah sheleimah for Shifra u’Bracha bnos Ester Rivka.


This week’s parsha splits its seams with mitzvot!  Today, though, our focus will be placed on the mitzvah of tzedakah, commonly translated as “charity”, but more accurately indicating “righteousness”.  We will now delve into a few core “how-to’s” from the Torah on giving tzedakah.


Tzedakah Tip #1:  One Must Prioritize…

If an individual receives a chance to show kindness in giving, whether someone in need knocks right on his door, or he receives unfortunate news of a faraway town struck by disaster (Chas v’Shalom, G-d forbid) the Torah proclaims:

“Ki-yihiyeh v’cha evyon mayachad achecha b’achad sh’arecha b’artzcha asher-Hashem Elokecha nosein lach lo t’amaitz et -l’vavcha v’lo sikfotz et-yadcha mayachicha ha’evyon.  Ki-patoach tiftach et-yadcha lo v’ha’aveit ta’avitenu di machsoro asher yechsar lo. — If there shall be a destitute person among you, any of your brethren in any of your cities, in your Land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you, you shall not harden your heart or close your hand against your destitute brother.  Rather, you shall open your hand to him; you shall lend him his requirement, whatever is lacking to him.” {Devarim 15:7-8}

We see here, that the Torah encourages and pushes us to help anyone we can and as much as we can, according to what we can afford, as it says “any of your brethren in any of your cities”, and that we must be sensitive and open to their requirements.  But if we have what to contribute, and we devote it all to the very first person who expresses need of (financial) assistance…  we might not be left with provisions to support the next person, who might need it even more!  Hopefully this doesn’t sound harsh, and hopefully we won’t come into an awkward situation in which we may have to, at least temporarily, refuse someone.  Because, the Torah gives us some very wise advice: to prioritize.  Try to discern, who presently is most desperate for help.  Those who will be in a dire situation without your swift assistance, must be attended to first.  After this case, which may involve even a stranger, one must reach out to their family, if they require it.  Your family takes precedence over everyone else, and families stick together in both times of happiness and challenge.  Remember the adage “Charity starts at home”?  When it comes to the impoverished of the city, the Talmud (Bava Metzia) rules “Aniyei ircha kodmim laniyei ir acheres – The poor of your city come before the poor of another city.”  Start with who’s closest to you, and branch your way outwards.  With this sensitive approach, and your tzedakah beginning by changing and uplifting lives locally, you will ultimately change the world.

Tzedakah Tip #2:  Strike a Balance…

Chazal, our Sages, teach us the importance of finding balance in giving.  One must not donate irresponsibly, thereby reducing himself to poverty (how can he support anyone further in that case?), but he mustn’t be over-calculating (nor stingy!), either.  There is a certain beauty to giving without re-evaluating each individual dollar…  One reference from Chazal on this sort of evenness, may perhaps be Rabban Gamliel’s teaching of “Al tarbeh l’aseir umados – Do not give excess tithes by estimating (instead of measuring). {Pirkei Avos 1:16}”  Maaseros, tithes, must be diligently and specifically measured according to the Torah’s directives.  But never forget the eternal call of “lo t’amaitz et -l’vavcha v’lo sikfotz et-yadcha – do not harden your heart and do not close your hand”.  Acknowledge what manner of giving tzedakah is most suitable for you, and you will discover the joy of being able to consistently give, with all the love and generosity, each and every time.

Tzedakah Tip #3: Attitude Matters…

A famous pasuk:  “Nason titein lo v’lo-yayra l’vavcha b’sitcha lo ki biglal hadavar hazeh y’varech’cha Hashem Elokecha b’chal ma’asecha uv’chol mishlach yadecha — You shall surely give him (a person in need), and let not your heart feel bad when you give him, for in return for this matter, Hashem, your G-d, will bless you in all your deeds and in your every undertaking. {Devarim 15:10}”  What exactly does the Torah mean, when it reminds us to “not let your heart feel bad”, when giving?  It is hinting that we must not extend our hand with the money (or other support) all the while wearing a bitter or pained countenance (whether it’s because one doesn’t derive such pleasure from giving charity, or any other reason).  The greatest way of giving tzedakah, is by doing so wholeheartedly, and going into it with a positive attitude.  Sincerity, and a smile, can make all the difference.  Anyone can donate money to a worthy cause, but can everyone do it with joy?  That is something really admirable.  The Gemara clarifies this in its teaching, that ‘Whoever gives a coin to poor person, merits 6 blessings.  But one who smiles at him, speaks kindly with him, and makes him feel comfortable, merits 11 blessings!’  That is five more blessings from Hashem, in return for our offering even one coin, to His child in need that He loves.  From here, we are clearly shown that the giver receives even more than the person, on levels both material and spiritual, to whom he extends his hand.  A person can give a lavish gift, but totally resent it, whilst someone who doesn’t have much can give a small gift, but radiate care and concern.  It all depends upon the giver’s attitude, to determine whether or not it is real tzedakah, real righteousness.


A final beautiful bit from Tanya.  Giving tzedakah, in Torah and tefillah has been likened, to the planting of seeds.  Plant the seed of a fruit tree, one seed, and what do you get?  Many seasons of bountiful fruit.  So too it is with tzedakah– it merits so much more than we even put in towards it.  With this giving, we merit Hashem’s bounty, which He delivers by His ray of Divine energy, that He beams in to our lowly world, daily.  But we only become worthy of these brachos, and come close to Hashem, when we show what we can, and will, do for HIM– by showing love, and emulating His generosity, to others in the world around us, Hashem’s creations and children whom He loves.

Rabbi Akiva says in Pirkei Avos {3:17}, that “Masros s’yag la’osher – Tithes are a protective fence for wealth”, and according Rabbi Gordon of blessed memory, the “best insurance” for your fortune.  The driving inspiration to give, is spiritual.  And this giving, we are taught, in turn protects our wealth, the material.  (And tzedakah, by the way, is also significant for those travelling, known as Shaliach mitzvah money,  a mitzvah and segulah to ensure safe travel.)  Once more our eyes are opened, to how everything that happens in this world, is reflected in the world above.

The Messenger Bird