What Goes Around by Tzvi Atkin


At the beginning of this week’s Parsha, the Torah discusses the Machatzit HaShekel, which each individual in Klal Yisrael gave every year for the upkeep of the Bait Hamikdash.  The Pasuk states, “Venatenu Ish Kofer Nafsho,” “Each man shall give an atonement for his soul” (30:12).

The Baal Haturim points out that the word “Venatenu” is a palindrome – it is spelled “Vav Nun Taf Nun Vav.”  He suggests that this is to teach us that in reality, the one who gives is also the one who receives, since he will eventually get back the money he gave.

The Vilna Gaon sees a different reason for the palindrome.  He writes that this spelling teaches us that the one who gives may eventually come to need to receive, because his future generations will become poor.  He quotes the Gemara (Shabbat 151) which states that poverty is a cycle that strikes everyone’s descendents at some point or another.  However, says the Gemara, one may be able to prevent this from happening to his descendants if he gives Tzedakah.  The Gaon points out that we can also see this principle from the fact that the trop, the cantillation note, for “Venatenu” is a “Kadma VeAzla,” which in Aramaic means “move quickly and go.”  According to the Gaon, this indicates that if we are quick to give money to the poor while we still have money, poverty may go away from our descendents.  

We see from the Baal Haturim and the Vilna Gaon just how powerful giving Tzedakah can be.  Not only does one get back what he gives, but he may even spare his children and grandchildren from the harsh conditions of poverty.


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