Weekly Thought - Re'eh

Friday, 6 August, 2010 - 1:04 am

Parshas Re'eh (15:7-10) speaks about the mitzva of tzedakah: You must give another Jew tzedakah and loans to the poor, as it says,  “ shall not harden your heart, and you shall not close your hand from your needy brother”  we have to give “ you should give him rapidly and your heart should not feel bad....”
The Torah is telling us both how much we give but also the way we give, as the possuk says, you shouldn't feel bad when you give to him. With this a person can make an account, if Hashem loves the poor why doesn't he support them himself? If Hashem wants them to be poor how can I go against Hashem's will? The answer is the rich man is the banker of Hashem. The one who gives tzedakah must realize that he is the shaliach to help the poor man. He must realize the money is not his, but Hashem entrusts him with it to give tzedakah and help others. That is why we find that Rebbe Hakodesh, codifier of the Mishna, honored the rich. For if Hashem entrusted His wealth to the rich and made them his bankers, surely the rich have the power to utilize their wealth in the right way. So Rebbe did not honor the rich because of their wealth, but because of what Hashem has entrusted them with. This is connected with the coming month of Elul, when we ask Hashem to be kind and merciful to us; so to, when we are kind to others it arouses the kindness of Hashem toward us.
In Pirkei Avos chapter 5 we find to astonishing Mishnas:
(13) There are four types of contributors to charity. One who wants to give but does not want others to give--is begrudging of others. One who wants that others should give but does not want to give--begrudges himself. One who wants that he as well as others should give, is a chassid. One who want neither himself nor others to give, is wicked.
(14) There are four types among those who attend the study hall. One who goes but does nothing--has gained the rewards of going. One who does [study] but does not go to the study hall--has gained the rewards of doing. One who goes and does, is a chassid. One who neither goes nor does, is wicked.
In 5:13 it describes four types who  give charity. The fourth one is the one who doesn't give himself and does not want others to give. In 5:14, four types of people who go to shul are described; the forth is the one who does not go, he does not engage in study or davening in the Beis Medrash. The Rebbe asks why are four types described in these two mishnas? Obviously only three types meet the criteria of one who give charity or one who goes to shul! When you need to make a minyan, you cannot rely on someone who doesn't come to shul. When an appeal for tzedakah is made, you cannot rely on someone who doesn't give. The Rebbe explains that the Mishna is talking about Klal Yisroel. Internally every Jew really wants to give tzedakah and attend minyan. However, there are some who struggle with their yetzer hara and it  doesn’t let them participate in these mitzvos. As the Rambam says, that even when force is used to make a Jew to do a mitzvah, the Jew is doing it willingly, only his yetzer harah is trapping him and making him not want to do it. When we use force we help the yetzer tov overcome the yetzer harah. Therefore, there are four types of people who give tzedakah and four types of people who go to the beis medrash. Just because someone doesn't obviously participate don't discount his lack of involvement, he IS part of Klal Yisroel and is connected to us and our job is to reveal within him that he is someone who gives tzedakah, and goes to the beis medrash. We cannot count him out and he shouldn't fall into despair and say I'll never change. This is the way of Ahavas Yisroel and what the Rebbe demands from each of us, to work with every Jew.
In Re'eh 14:22 we are commanded “aseir t'aseir” “you must take maaser sheini” (a second tenth of all your produce which is taken to Yerushalyim and eaten). In the Gemorah Taanis, Rebbe Yochonon learns from this possuk that by giving maaser that you will become rich. We are not allowed to test Hashem in anything, but concerning maaser Hashem says, Yes, test Me, give maaser and see what will happen. The Rebbe explains further, that riches come not only from the mitzvah of giving maaser, but also from the mitzvah of giving tzedakah.
As an illustration of the power of tzedakah here is a story my father told:
Before starting a new business in the late 1950s, Rabbi S. Z. had yechidus with the Rebbe during which the Rebbe instructed him to give $5,000 to tzedakah. In those days $5,000 was an enormous sum: to illustrate it's value if someone made $100 a week it was a very good income and schar limud in those days was $3-$5 a week.
Rabbi S. Z. had a partner who dismissed the idea of giving so much to tzedakah at the outset of their venture, saying, we'll give some...sometime.... So Rabbi S. Z. didn't give the money, eventually he went bankrupt and left for Eretz Yisroel to escape his creditors. Before his departure he went into yechidus again where the Rebbe said, “if you had given me the $5,000 as I asked you to when you started your business, I would have gone to R. Yochonon (the sage from the Gemorah quoted above) and demanded from him that he must keep his word....that when one gives maaser he will become rich.”

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