21 Sep TZEDAKAH – A GREAT WAY TO HAVE A BETTER NEW YEAR – PART TWO
Last week we discussed the unique power of tzedakah and how it literally can save our lives, add to our longevity, bring us wealth, and generate serenity and tranquility. Chazal use an interesting metaphor for charity: When referring to tzedakah, it says zorei-ah tzedakos, planting charity. The Yalkut HaGershuni gives three reasons for the metaphor of planting. First, he explains that just as when we plant the more fertile the ground is, the more successful is the planting. So too, when giving charity, the more deserving the recipient or the cause is, the greater the reward is. This is why it is good to have a reliable rabbi or gabbai tzedakah, charity treasurer, to help you in the giving of at least some of your charitable donations.
[A great modern new idea of giving tzedakah is DailyGiving.org, the ‘daf yomi’ of charities which gives from you a dollar a day to a different world-class tzedakah each day. Their venerable board of rabbis, which includes the likes of Rav Pesach Krohn and Rav Moshe Tuvia Lieff, hand-picked 58 tzedakos where your dollars will go. To date, DailyGiving.org gives out over $11 thousand a day, and upwards of $4 million a year.] Your shul rabbi and his discretionary fund is also a good resource since he will usually represent aniyei ircha, the poor of your locality, which must take precedence. Giving to one’s own relatives is also a very good idea.
The Yalkut then continues that just like in planting we don’t see the results right away, to the contrary the seed first must decompose in the ground and only then does its magic, so too the rewards for giving tzedakah are not readily apparent. One must wait patiently but just like the flourishing of a seed, the wondrous yields of tzedakah are sure to come.
The third reason he gives is that just like a seed needs to be hidden from view and covered in the earth, so too when giving to the poor you have to act discretely and be sure not to embarrass the needy person. The Gemora informs us that a poor person would prefer to go hungry than to be shamed. The Gemora in Shabbos says that the letters gimel daled refer to gomel dalim, being benevolent to the needy. The daled represents the dal, the pauper. Therefore, explains the Gemora, the pauper’s face is turned away from the gimel to symbolize that the donor should not shame the recipient.
I would like to add a few other thoughts about the metaphor of planting. Firstly, as we know, the sun is vital in the planting process, activating the photosynthesis. So too, when giving charity it is oh so much more effective when we give it with a smile and a kind word. As the Gemora in Bava Basra teaches us, if you give to the poor you are blessed with six blessings. But, if you appease him with words as well, you are blessed with eleven more (cf. Maharsha). Too often, people give their dollars in shul with a look of disdain or even disgust for being bothered. Often, people will radiate with the attitude that they are being taken advantage of. Let’s remember that the yield of our tzedakah is much more when it is accompanied by a sunny disposition.
Another thought I had, is that just like with planting, there are seasons. There’s the rainy season and there is the time for the late crop. So too with charity there are special seasons. Before Pesach there is the maos chitin, on Purim there is the matanos le-evyonim, and as we have been saying, before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur there is the life-saving chance of giving charity.
Finally, we all know that the seed needs the accompaniment of rain in order to grow properly. So too, the power of tzedakah is that much more effective when accompanied by Torah, for as we are taught, “Ein mayim ela Torah – Water symbolizes Torah study only.” Thus we are taught in the first perek of Masechtas Berachos, “B’chesed v’emes yi’chupar avon – With the synthesis of kindness and truth, sin is atoned for,” and the Gemera clarifies, kindness refers to charity and truth refers to Torah.
So, as we come closer and closer to the Day of Judgment, when we want our sins to be forgiven, let’s beef ourselves up with lots of tzedakah and Torah, and in that merit may Hashem bless us with a year of long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
To be continued.