by Zevi Goldberg
Parshat Re'eh deals with many Mitzvot; one of the more famous of these is Tzedaka. The Torah tells us, "You shall not harden your heart or close your hand against your destitute brother. Rather, you shall open your hand to him" (15:7-8). The Torah seems to be a little repetitive. Why does it say not to harden our hearts and then go on to say open our hands. Wouldn't one phrase have been sufficient to express the Mitzva of Tzedaka? Throughout the Torah, Hashem rarely gives explicit instructions how to do a Mitzva. The Torah does not say how to build a Sukkah or how to bake Matzot; it simply says the commandant to dwell in a Sukkah and eat Matza. Why, then, does the Torah need to tell us the way in which to give Tzedaka, to open up our hands? The Jewish People would have understood the Mitzva of Tzedaka if the Torah would have just said, "Do not harden your heart," or "Open your hand," but the fact that Torah says both is cause for inspection.
Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, offers an interesting interpretation of the seemingly extra phrase. Rav Moshe says that the two phrases each constitute their own Mitzva. The first Mitzva, not to harden one's heart, is the Mitzva of preparing to give and eagerly awaiting the time when one will be able to give Tzedaka. However, if one cannot come to terms with giving eagerly, there is still the second Mitzva of opening up one's hands, regardless of whether or not one wants to do so.
The Torah seems to be teaching us a very valuable lesson. It is not good enough just to do a Mitzva by the letter of the law; one must strive to be willing and eager to do all Mitzvot, even the ones that cause personal loss, because in the end, Hashem is fair to everyone. This fairness is especially applicable to Tzedaka because the highest level of Tzedaka is to help someone without making him feel like he is receiving charity. The Torah teaches how to be a sensitive person. Giving Tzedaka should not be done because the Torah instructs us to do so. Rather, it should be done because we want to help a brother in need. That is why there are two different Pesukim, one concentrating on giving Tzedaka and the other teaching us how to be good Jews. One must want to give the Tzedaka, because doing Chesed does not just help the poor person; it also helps the person who is doing the Chesed. By giving away our money to those who really need it, we are showing Hashem that we realize where all our money comes from, that it is all a result of His help. If one truly understands that Hashem is the One Who owns all money, then giving the money away will not be as difficult, because the donor realizes that in one way or another the money will come back to him. May we all truly understand the beauty of Tzedaka and the lessons that lie deep within it.
The Wealth of Tzedaka
by Yechiel Shaffer
"You shall tithe all the produce of your fields" (Devarim 14:22).
The Talmud interprets the word Taaser, "You shall tithe," to mean Taashir, that "you may become wealthy," and according to this interpretation, the Torah promises material reward for tithing (Shabbat 119). One might think that by giving Tzedaka one is depleting his assets. Not so, says the Torah. Giving Tzedaka does not impoverish, but on the contrary, one receives much more than he gives.
The Chafetz Chaim illustrates the point of withholding Tzedaka through a parable. A peasant brought his farm produce to the market. In order to determine the amount of the sale, he had the buyer put a coin into a container for each bundle of grain that was delivered, so that by counting the coins they would know the number of bundles purchased. When the merchant's attention was diverted, the peasant stole several coins from the container, not realizing that with each coin he stole he lost the price of a bundle of grain. The small gain by theft was far offset by the loss of payment for his merchandise.
The Chafetz Chaim says that one may think that by refraining from giving Tzedaka one is saving money. One does not realize that the gain of giving Tzedaka outweighs the loss.
We often measure gain or loss by our consideration of what is the immediate, short-term gain or loss. This is not the way a shrewd financier operates. With Tzedaka, as with many other Mitzvot, making a short-term expenditure in order to achieve a long-term gain is a wise investment.
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