Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 5 No. 44

Parshas Re'ei

One Tenth

"Give one tenth from all the produce of your field as Ma'aser" (14:22).

This is a hint, writes the P'sikta, that businessmen and merchants should give one tenth of their profits to those who study Torah (the highest form of charity). Presumably, the P'sikta learns this from the double expression - "Aser te'aser" used here by the Torah.

The Gemoro in Kesubos (67a) tells the story of the daughter of Nakdimon ben Gurion, who, although she was the daughter of a millionaire, became so poor that she had to collect barley from under the feet of the Arabs' animals. Her father had become impoverished, Rabbi Yochonon ben Zakai told her, because, in spite of the fact that he had donated tzedokah liberally, he had not given enough, according to his means.

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Here we have the answer, says the Chafetz Chayim, to those who cannot understand why they do not become wealthy (in keeping with the Torah's promise to those who give tzedokah), in spite of the large amounts of tzedokah that they give, much of it to Torah and Torah institutions.

Their claims that they give a lot of tzedokah may well be the truth, he explains, but they are not justified - because they do not give in accordance with their means. They think that because the poor man or the Meshulach has received a fine donation, they have done their duty; what they do not realise is that G-d assesses them by their standard, and not by the poor man's.

It is for good reason that Chazal (in Kesubos) compare the giving of tzedokoh to salting one's food (Salt in itself, is not tasty, but it improves the taste of the food). Everyone knows, that you cannot put a few grains of salt on a large piece of meat - as you would on a small one. If you want to enhance the taste of a large piece of meat, then you have to increase the amount of salt many-fold. It is reminiscent of the story about the heir who did not pay heed to his father's warning, decreasing his Ma'asros each year. The field's yield decreased accordingly, until his relatives came to see him dressed in their Yom-tov attire; they explained to him how formerly, he had been the owner (receiving nine tenths of the yield), and Hashem the Cohen (receiving one tenth, so to speak); but now the roles had been reversed. Hashem was the new owner and he, the Cohen. They had now come to celebrate his new appointment.

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The Chofetz Chayim would tell a wonderful story to illustrate the stupidity of those people who believe that they actually benifit by not giving tzedokoh.

A farmer who used to travel into town to sell his sacks of corn, was once given to believe that the townspeople had hatched some sort of plot to cheat the villagers. So he decided that, in order to protect himself, he would strike first. What did he do? The farmers were generally uneducated, so, when they sold the sacks of grain to the townspeople, the purchasers would chalk up a mark on the board. When the sale was concluded, they would count the number of marks on the board, and they would know exactly how many sacks they had purchased.

Our farmer decided to change the method. He insisted on putting out a hat, into which the purchaser was to place a coin for each sack that he bought. When the deal was concluded, they would count the coins, and the townsman would have to pay for the equivalent number of sacks. However, at some point during the sale, when the purchaser was busy checking the quality of the grain, he snatched a handful of coins from the hat, quite pleased with himself at having been able to 'outwit' the townsman before the townsman could outwit him. It never ocurred to him that for every coin that he was stealing, he was causing himself a loss of the price of a sack of grain.

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This story the Chofetz would tell with a smile, to show up those people who think that, by closing their hands from their poor brothers and from the Torah scholars, they will be so much the richer. They do not realise that Hashem has promised endless blessings to those who keep mitzvos, and particularly in the realm of tzedokoh. Each and every prutah that they withold from the poor, is the source of great loss to themselves. They think that they are gaining prutos but in reality, they are losing gold coins.

Parshah Pearls
Prophets and Dreamers

Rashi, commenting on the fact that the false prophet's performance of miracles, explains that G-d empowers him to achieve miracles in order to test us (to see whether we remain faithful to G-d's Torah in spite of the miracles).

It goes without saying, says the Chofetz Chayim, that if, in order to test us, Hashem grants the wicked success in the realm of the supernatral, that He is just as capable and as likely to grant them success in the realm of the natural. Consequently, one should not take to heart the tremendous prosperity of those who are far removed from Torah.

This is particularly true, he adds, in the years before the coming of Moshi'ach, about which the prophet Mal'achi wrote: that at that time, Hashem will put our loyalty to the test, by blessing every endeavour of those who are unfaithful with success.

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Factions

You are children of Hashem - do not make cuts in your flesh. The Medrash Tanchuma however, explains the posuk to mean: 'Do not make groups' (14:1) There is nothing wrong with having two Botei-Din in one town, the Medrash elaborates: what the Torah objects to is groups that fight with each other.

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Someone once asked the Chafetz Chayim why Judasim needs so many factions: Chasidim and Misnagdim, (Sefardim and Ashknazim), and among the Chasidim themselves there are so many different segments; some learn more and daven less, others daven more and learn less; some prefer singing, others prefer dancing. Would the world have been any poorer, they asked him, had there been just one brand of Judasim, one nusach, one set of customs?

The Chofetz Chayim's reply however, was forthcoming. 'Why do you ask me', he said? 'Go and ask the Kaiser why, in his army he has soldiers, sailors and airman. Why the army itself consists of cavalry, infantry, artillary etc? Would the Kaiser have been any the worse off, had his army been confined to the one or to the other'?

The answer of course is, that he would. When one fights with an enemy, one needs a variety of strategies in order to counter the various tactics that he uses if one is to get the better of him. And besides, one needs one type of soldier for close combat, another for fighting from a distance, and yet another to attack by sea and from the air, and so on.

Well, said the Choftz Chayim, we too, have constantly to fight a common enemy - the Yetzer Ho'ra, and goodness only knows what a vast array of tactics are required to keep him at bay. All of the many diverse groups of religious Jews are members of the same army - G-d's army, and the essential thing is to be aware that we are all fighting for His sake, each one overcoming the enemy in his own unique way.

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To which group do you belong?

On another occasion, he was asked his opinion with regard to which group of Chareidim one ought to belong - and which one should avoid.This is what he replied: 'I know just one thing: when the time arrives for us to appear before the Heavenly Court, we will not be asked 'Did you register with this Chevra or with that Chevra?

They will take out a Sefer-Torah, place it on the bimah and say 'Did you fulfil what is written here?' Those who are able to answer in the affirmative will be sent to Gan Eden, whereas those who will have to answer in the negaćive, will be told to crawl into the fire!

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Believe it or not

Someone who has less than two hundred zuz (= dinrim) may take Ma'asros (though a traveller may take Ma'asros even if he owns more than that).

The numerical value of the the word 'tzedokoh', believe it or not, is 199, just one less than 200.

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"Open your hand to the poor" Devorim( 15:8 )

SOME LAWS OF CHARITY

Translated from the RAMBAM, HILCHOS MATNOS ANIYIM (10:6-15)

Someone who induces others to give charity earns a greater reward than the one who actually gives it, as it is written; "And the act of charity will be complete" (the word 'act' in Hebrew [ma'aseh] is synonymous with 'to make someone act' [me'aseh']), and it is about the officers of charity that our sages said; 'And those who perform righteous acts with the community are like the stars'.

There are eight progressive levels of charity-giving.

1 The Supreme act of charity consists of someone who supports a Jew who has fallen on hard times, and gives him a gift or a loan, offers him a partnership or work in a way that gives him a boost, thereby eliminating the need to ask people for assistance ('a stitch in time saves nine'). And it is in this regard thać the Torah writes; "And support him, the convert and the gentile who lives with you, and let him live (give him a lease of life) with you": In other words, give him a boost before he falls and needs help.

2 A lesser form of charity is one who gives charity to the poor, in a way that neither is he aware to whom he is giving, nor is the recipient aware from whom he is receiving. This is a mitzvah performed 'lishmoh' (with the correct motivation). A good example of this is 'the secret box' that in the Beis-Hamikdosh, where the righteous would discreetly place money, and from which the poor of good stock were sustained in a discreet manner. Close to this idea, is someone who places money in a 'pushkah' (a collecting box). However, one should not do this unless he knows for sure that the officer in charge is trustworthy, learned, and knows how to behave with integrity, in the tradition of Rabbi Chananyah ben Tradyon.

3 Inferior to this is someone who knows to whom he is giving, but the recipient does not know from whom he is receiving. This is the ideal situation and considered a fine thing to do in a place where the integrity of the officers in charge of the Tzedokoh-fund is doubtful.

4 Inferior to this is where the poor man is aware from whom he is recieving, but the donor does not know to whom he is giving; like the great sages, who would wrap the money in their clothes and sling it over their shoulders. The poor would then come and take the money. They did this in order to spare the recipient embarassment.

5 Inferior to this is someone who gives charity directly into the poor man's hand, before he asks for it.

6 Inferior to this is if he hands him the charity after he has asked for it.

7 Inferior to this is if someone gives a smaller amount than he ought to - with a pleasant countenance.

8 Inferior to this is someone who gives reluctantly.

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The great sages would give a small coin to a poor man before each 'tefillah' (i.e. Shachris, Minchah and Ma'ariv) and then they would daven as it is written. 'I will see Your Face' (i.e. stand before You in prayer) 'with charity.' (Tehilim 17:15 )

We got it wrong, too!

In the last issue - Parshas vo'Eschanan - (in 'They got it wrong', on top of page 8) - we inadvertently wrote that the destruction of Yerushalayim took place nine years after Nebuchadnetzar's rise to power. This was of course, a slip of the pen: it should have read 'nineteen years'.

We apologize for joining the bandwagon and getting it wrong, too

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