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"Tsedaka, tsedaka, please give me tsedaka."
Avi's father reaches into his pocket and pulls out a coin. He smiles at the oni (poor person), gives him the coin, and blesses him with much health, success, and nachas. The oni thanks him and continues on his way.
"Abba, I really admire your generosity. It is so hard for me to give tsedaka to poor people!"
"The money in my pocket is mine. I can buy so many good things with it. I had to work hard for that money. Along comes the oni and asks me to give him a free gift. Why should I? Why should he enjoy my money instead of me?"
"Ahhh, Avi. I understand you completely. It seems to me that you would like to strengthen your mitzvah of tsedaka. I can help you if you like."
"Please do, Abba. I do not feel very good about my attitude towards this mitzvah."
"First of all, Avi, we have four mitzvos of tsedaka in this week's parasha. We are warned to not abandon the Levi by not giving him maaser. 'You shall not harden your heart or close your hand against your needy brother. Rather, you shall surely open your hand to him; and shall lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he is lacking….You shall surely give him, and let your heart not feel bad when you give him, for in return for this matter, Hashem your G- d will bless all your deeds, and undertakings' (Devarim 15:7-11). Additionally, there are many other mitzvos throughout the Torah which command us to give tsedaka, lend money, give trumah and maaser, and help unfortunate people in all ways possible."
"Why are there so many mitzvos, Abba?"
"Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch zt"l addresses the root of the mitzvah. The natural tendency of the Jewish soul is to do acts of loving kindness. This strengthens our relationship with our fellow man, and brings us closer to our Creator. There is no greater pleasure for the soul than this. However, the body, which is governed by the yetzer hora, gets in the way. He fills our minds with all kinds of reasons to harden our hearts and not help our less fortunate brothers. He works particularly hard with these specific mitzvos, to convince us that we are throwing our money away."
"Why is that, Abba?"
"Because the yetzer works the hardest when he has the most to gain. The mitzvos of tsedaka and gemilus chassodim are phenomenal. They produce fantastic results for the giver and even for the oni. Therefore, the yetzer hora works overtime to thwart these great mitzvos."
"Can you give me an example of the benefits of tsedaka, Abba?"
"With pleasure, Avi. Firstly, Rav Hirsch states very simply that the word 'tsedaka' is from the word 'tsedek', which means 'correct'. Helping an oni is the correct thing to do, and one who does not help him has made a mistake for which he will have to answer to Hashem. Secondly, the sheer number of mitzvos of tsedaka shows its paramount importance. The Rambam numbers thirteen mitzvos of tsedaka in his section dealing with gifts to the poor. Besides the mitzvos in this week's parasha, he includes leaving the leket (produce that was not taken), shichicha (forgotten in the field), and peah (corners of the field) for the poor people. There are an additional seven basic mitzvos of gifts to the Kohanim and Leviim. In the section on lending and borrowing, the Rambam numbers ten mitzvos concerning lending to a Jew. That is a minimum of thirty commandments (almost five percent of the total 613) in the Torah to perform charitable acts."
"The numbers are astounding."
"All mitzvos have their reward in the next world, and give us blessing in this world. However, the Gemora specifically mentions special rewards and benefits for the mitzvah of tsedaka. It protects one from harm, pacifies anger, and brings the giver six blessings that are mention specifically in the Tanach. If one also speaks kind words to the oni when giving the tsedaka, he receives an additional eleven brochos. If a person runs after this mitzvah, Hashem will send him the money to give, and deserving poor people to give to. His income will be secure. One who regularly gives tsedaka will have sons who are wise, rich, and honorable. Tsedaka hastens the geula (redemption), saves a person from a gruesome death, saves him from the judgment of gehennom, and brings the Shechina (Divine Presence), (Bava Basra 9-10). The Meiri expounds on this gemora. The mitzvah of tsedaka is extremely great. Of all the positive mitzvos, we should rush to do it the quickest. It identifies a person as being a descendant of Avraham Avinu. It carries the weight of all the mitzvos, and deliberately avoiding giving tsedaka is tantamount to idol worship. It can also cause bloodshed!"
"A person's expenses are fixed at Rosh Hashanah. If he does not give the "expense money" to tsedaka, it can go to the doctor, the repairman, the tax collector, etc. How much better to give it with happiness and a good heart to The One Who provides him with all good things! Our great chachomim would give tsedaka to an oni before praying to Hashem. The mitzvah of tsedaka would be an advocate between him and his Father in Heaven."
"I am going to follow that advice, Abba!"
"Excellent, Avi. Your giving, giving, and more giving of tsedaka will make a deep impression on your neshama (soul). The Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 66) elaborates on this subject. Hashem wants the middah (character trait) of chessed (kindness) to be a habitual part of the behavior of His creations. It is a superlative middah! A person who becomes a baal-chessed is then fitting to receive Hashem's goodness. This fulfills the Almighty's purpose in creating the world - to bestow good on His creations!"
"Wow, Abba, tsedaka is really a foundation of the universe! The world stands on Torah, avodah (service to Hashem), and gemilus chassodim. When we do chessed, we uphold the creation, and justify its reason for existence. This fulfills Hashem's will and gives Him endless nachas ruach!"
"Now, you've got it, Avi!"
"Thank you so, so much, Abba. I really understand the mitzvah of tsedaka. I hope to never ever again have difficulty helping a needy person." "May Hashem help you succeed!"
Kinderlach . . .
As we see, tsedaka is an extremely important and valuable mitzvah. The yetzer hora fights a major war against it. How can we beat him? We have to counter-attack in two ways. We must learn the halachos and hashkofos (Torah outlook) of the mitzvah of tsedaka, and we must perform the mitzvah. Learning about tsedaka weakens the yetzer hora's koach (strength) against the mitzvah. Giving, giving, and giving again makes the mitzvah second nature. The sheer habit weakens the yetzer hora. It also makes us into merciful people. Our souls become more refined and elevated. How can such a kind person as myself even think of ignoring a needy person? As we strive for this exalted madrayga (spiritual level), we receive a great deal of help in this world, and tremendous reward in the next world. Kinderlach, the mitzvah of tsedaka is an absolute gem. Don't pass it up.
Kinder Torah Copyright 2015 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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