Halacha for Tuesday 5 Tammuz 5781 June 15 2021

The Privilege to Donate Tzedakah

In the previous Halacha, we have discussed how the prophet Yirmeya requested from Hashem that when the wicked wish to donate Tzedakah, he should present them with unworthy people. This means that the Tzedakah funds should go to unworthy causes, such as cheaters and con-artists. As such, the wicked will not retain the merit of having donated Tzedakah.

There was an incident (which we have recounted in the past) regarding a wealthy and respected philanthropist in the United States who owned a Jewish school that existed on Tzedakah funds. This philanthropist had a close friend who was extremely wealthy with a net worth of approximately one-billion dollars. When this wealthy friend lay on his deathbed as a result of a fierce illness, his rich friend who owned the school went to visit him in order to perform the Mitzvah of visiting the sick. When he arrived, he saw that his friend’s end was drawing very near. He told himself that although his friend was not very generous, this may be the perfect time to request some financial assistance for the organizations of kindness and school that he ran. He turned to his friend and told him, “May it be Hashem’s will that you live many more long and healthy years. However, see here my friend that I require enormous sums to continue with my blessed work. Please, could you possibly donate a respectable sum to my organizations so that your soul may rest in peace after many more years of life?” His friend answered him, “I have already donated all of my money to charity and I have only left over a small portion of it in order to support myself here in the hospital until my last day and in order to leave my family members an inheritance after my passing.” His friend asked him, “Toward which cause did you donate your money?” The ill friend answered, “In one of the countries in the Far East there are some special people who run a park that provides a habitat for endangered monkeys. This matter is very close to my heart and it is for this reason that I gifted them with all of my riches; a cool $900 million.” The rich friend who headed the school returned to the members of his community completely disappointed and told them, “Although my friend had a generous spirit to donate to others, he will still not merit satisfaction in the World to Come, for he now has no share in supporting the Torah or teaching Torah to poor children; all this is because he had never studied Torah and he has thus never understood the greatness of donating Tzedakah to the correct places.”

On the other hand, here is another true story which occurred approximately eight years ago, when the great world recession had begun. There was a kind and upstanding philanthropist who resided in Argentina who was approached by an honest and straight man who requested a certain donation for Tzedakah. The generous benefactor thought about this and decided to make the effort to donate fifty-thousand dollars to this Tzedakah.

He immediately called his bank in the United States where his accounts were and requested that they transfer fifty-thousand dollars to the Tzadakah organization’s account. The bank replied that as a result of the financial recession, they could not process his request and he would have to wait several days to receive an authorization for this transfer. When the philanthropist heard this, he became extremely agitated and asked them how they could possibly do this, this was his money and the bank could not withhold it! This man then immediately contacted his attorney in the United States and requested that he send the bank an urgent letter obligating them to immediately transfer the funds as they had been instructed. Since the man was so taken aback by the bank’s behavior, he likewise requested that all of his accounts in this bank be closed and that they be relocated to another bank.

Upon receiving the letter from this philanthropist’s lawyer, the bank’s employees became quite scared and they immediately transferred all of this wealthy individual’s fund to another bank; all of the man’s money, stocks, and other things in his financial portfolio were transferred to the other bank as per the lawyer’s request.

The next day, this bank declared bankruptcy and all of the people who invested their money in this bank suffered heavy financial losses. This generous benefactor was privileged that his thought to donate Tzedakah saved him from such astronomical losses. (In the next Halacha, we shall recount a similar story which occurred during approximately the same time.)

In the next Halacha, we shall discuss the list of priorities regarding the Mitzvah of Tzedakah, i.e. which Tzedakah is considered the highest level of all.

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