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"Shalom aleichem, Mr. Nadvan!"
"Aleichem ha'shalom, Rabbi Natlan. How have you been keeping?"
"Baruch Hashem, Mr. Nadvan. It is always an honor and a pleasure to see you. Now is the time of year when you usually give a generous donation to the Ahavas Chessed Tsedaka Fund. We hope that you will be able to help us out again this year."
"Rabbi, this year is different. Before I give you a check, I want to know exactly where my tsedaka money is going. How many families do you support, and how much do you collect? What are your criteria for approving the people who receive tsedaka from the fund? How are your expenses and commissions paid? In the past, I just gave you a donation without asking any questions. However, I feel that I have a right to know exactly what you do with my tsedaka money. Please prepare your financial records and come back to me."
The question is:
Is Mr. Nadvan justified in his demand for a financial statement? Is Rabbi Natlan obligated to give an accounting?
The answer is:
The Gemora (Bava Basra 9a) discusses this very question. It cites a braysa that states that we may not demand a cheshbon from the gabbi tsedaka or from the treasurer of hekdesh. This is hinted to in the verse in Melachim 2. "They did not make an accounting with the men into whose hand they gave the money to pay out to the workmen, for they acted with integrity." (12:16)
The Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 257:2 rules like the Gemora, that we may not demand an accounting from a gabbai tsedaka. However, the Rema adds that it is good for the gabbai tsedaka to give a cheshbon on his own without being asked. This is a fulfillment of the verse, "You shall be vindicated from Hashem and from Israel" (Bamidbar 32:22).
This only applies if the gabbi is trustworthy. However, if he is not trustworthy, the community can demand an accounting, and they can remove him from his position.
This puzzle and answer is for learning and discussion purposes only. Do not rely upon it for psak halacha! Consult a Rav to determine the correct halachic ruling.
"Shloimie, would you like to go shopping with me today?"
"I would love to, Abba. I love being with you."
"I feel the same way, Shloimie. We are going to the grocery store to buy food for Shabbos."
"I am so excited."
"Grab your coat and let's go."
They reach the store and Shloimie's father takes a shopping cart. He begins filling it up with all kinds of good things.
"Shloimie, please choose eight nice challahs."
"So many, Abba?"
"Yes, we are having a lot of guests this Shabbos. Here is the meat department. We need chicken and fish."
Shloimie's eyes open wide as his father places several chickens into the basket. Slowly they move on from aisle to aisle. The cart fills up with fruit, vegetables, wine, cake, and drinks - all to honor the Shabbos Queen.
"We're almost finished, Shloimie. We just have to pay."
Shloimie's eyes open even wider as he sees the cashier ringing up all of the items. Finally, she makes a total - a lot of money.
"Abba, I never realized that the Shabbos food is so expensive. Maybe we should cut down on the number of guests to save money?"
Shloimie's father smiled.
"Shloimieleh, to answer your question, I would like to share a Devar Torah from the Medrash Rabba (Yisro 27:7) with you. It begins with a puzzling verse from Shlomo HaMelech. 'Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it' (Koheles 11:1). Are people foolish enough to throw their food away into the sea? Of course not! Who is this verse referring to? Yisro, who gave bread to Moshe. As the verse states, 'Call him and let him eat bread' (Shemos 2:20)."
"Abba, why is Moshe Rabbeinu referred to as water?"
"Because Paroh's daughter named him Moshe, which means, 'I drew him from the water' (Shemos 2:10). Shlomo HaMelech concludes 'for after many days you will find it.' This refers to Aharon and all the elders of Israel who came to eat bread with Yisro."
"I still do not understand the message, Abba."
"The Medrash is addressing the fact that many verses in the Torah are written about Yisro, and how Moshe and Aharon greeted him (Shemos 18:1-12). This must be an important event, if so much is written about it. The episode of Yisro teaches us the reward for good deeds. Do not be afraid to do a good deed, even if it appears that you will lose money. Yisro was not afraid to feed Moshe. Who knows if he would ever see him again? No good deed goes unrewarded! In the merit of his hachnasas orchim (act of kindness of welcoming and feeding a guest), Yisro merited to become close to the Shechina (Divine Presence). As the verse states, 'Moshe...Aharon...and the elders of Israel came to eat bread with the father-in-law of Moshe before Hashem."
"I see Abba. We are not wasting any money on food for our Shabbos guests."
"Not a penny, Shloimie. We will get it all back, one way or another. Hashem will not let any good deed go unrewarded."
Kinderlach . . .
"I am getting frustrated. I spend money on mitzvos. I invest a lot of time trying to help people. I am working on my middos. Do people appreciate what I am doing? Do they realize how much effort I am putting in?" Don't worry. Every effort is important. Every chessed is remembered. Every penny spent is accounted for. No good deed ever goes unrewarded. You will benefit from all of your efforts. Only Hashem knows when and where. Trust Him. He will not let you down.
Kinder Torah Copyright 2013 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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