The Tur (Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 247) writes: “There is a positive Torah commandment for one to donate some of one’s money to charity, based on one’s individual capabilities. In addition to the fact that whoever donates charity fulfills a positive Torah commandment, one who abstains from donating charity transgresses a negative Torah commandment, as the verse states (Devarim 16), ‘You shall not strengthen your heart and you shall not clench your hand from your poor brother.’ Our Sages teach us (Baba Batra 12a) that whoever ignores the Mitzvah of Tzedakah is tantamount to worshipping idols, for regarding the Mitzvah of Tzedakah the verse states, ‘Watch yourself lest there be a wicked matter in your heart’ and regarding idol worship the Torah states, ‘Wicked people have gone out.’ Just like the wickedness there refers to idol worship, so does the wickedness in the verse regarding charity.”
If one is careful regarding the Mitzvah of Tzedakah, it attests to the fact that one is a blessed child of Hashem, as the verse states (Bereshit 18), “In order for him (Avraham) to command his children and his household after him to heed the path of Hashem by performing righteousness (Tzedakah) and justice.” Indeed, the Jewish throne and the religion of truth only stands in the merit of Tzedakah, as the verse states (Yeshaya 54), “With righteousness (Tzedakah) shall you be established.” The Jewish nation shall only be redeemed through Tzedakah, as the verse states, “Zion shall be redeemed through justice and her captives through righteousness (Tzedakah).”
A person shall never become poor by giving charity and nothing bad can ever come about through Tzedakah, as the verse states, “The maker of Tzedakah shall have peace.” Whoever has mercy on Hashem’s creations shall merit Heavenly mercy upon himself. One must always pay attention to the fact that just as one requests from Hashem that he accept one’s prayers, one must also heed the plight of the poor. Additionally, Hashem hears the prayers of the poor and those who have the means to do so must take care to donate charity to them, for if the poor scream to Hashem about their plight, Hashem shall hear their prayers and punish those who did not come to their aid. One should not question how he can he give his hard-earned money to others, for the money is not his and one is responsible to dispense the money according to the wishes of the One who deposited the money with him, i.e. by giving charity.
Indeed, the Gemara (Baba Batra 11a) recounts an incident regarding King Munvaz, son of Queen Hileni who had converted and greatly assisted the Jews living in Israel. Munvez was a righteous man as well. Once, when there was a famine in the land, Munvaz spent all of his vaults of riches in order to provide for his Jewish brethren. His brothers and his father’s family came to him and exclaimed, “Your fathers have earned and saved up more money and treasures to fill up the royal coffers more than any of their ancestors before them and you waste it all so quickly and thoughtlessly?” Munvaz answered, “My fathers have amassed this wealth in this world and I am amassing wealth in the World to Come! My fathers have amassed this wealth in a place where one’s hand can reach and I am amassing a fortune where one’s hand cannot reach! My fathers amassed objects which do not bear fruit while I amassed objects which do bear fruit! My fathers amassed riches while I have amassed souls! My fathers have amassed for others while I amass for myself! My fathers have amassed wealth in this world while I amass wealth in the World to Come, as the verse (Yeshaya 58) states, ‘And your righteousness (Tzedakah) shall go before you, the glory of Hashem shall gather you.’”
How moving are the words of this wise king whose fathers amassed and stored massive wealth but remained with nothing while he, who helped others and remembered the teachings of our Sages, merited that his actions still remain to his merit in the World to Come until this very day.
Maran zt”l was involved in the Mitzvah of Tzedakah throughout his entire life both in regards to his own money which he gave to charitable causes and by taking care of the needs of the downtrodden. There are even lists of Tzedakah funds which Maran zt”l distributed more than seventy years ago to widows, orphans, and new immigrants who had almost nothing when Maran would go from place to place collecting for these unfortunate souls. All of this was done in the most discreet manner; almost no one was aware of the tremendous amount of Tzedakah Maran was involved with. Even though his time was very precious, Maran zt”l did not worry about himself and his own honor and he did everything in his power to lift the spirits of the needy.
In the following Halachot, we shall discuss some more details regarding this matter.