Torah thought forFriday 29 Av 5782 August 26 2022

Parashat Re’eh - Through Giving Tzedakah, We Receive Berachot

From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

This Shabbat we shall read about the mitzvah of tzedakah, as it states, “When in a settlement in the land that Hashem your G-d is giving you, if any of your brothers is poor, do not harden your heart or shut your hand against your needy brother. Open your hand generously, and extend to him any credit he needs to take care of his wants” (Devarim 15:7-8).

Every person is obligated to open his hand and help the poor and destitute. The Torah promises that through the mitzvah of tzedakah the giver will merit to a blessing in everything that they do.

Our chachamim compared this to a person who lost 100 shekalim and was distressed. The next day he found a 200 shekel note and was very happy. But he still felt some pain because he figured that if he hadn’t lost the 100 shekalim he would now have 300 shekalim. In contrast, consider a person who owns land, sowing it each year. One year he came to sow wheat but there was a hole in the sack and on his way some wheat kernels fell out and he was very upset. However, at the end of winter he saw that the whole pathway where the seeds had fallen, good quality wheat had grown. Then the farmer was upset, why wasn’t there a bigger hole because then the gain would have been bigger from the mishap.

So it is with tzedakah. When a person donates from his money to tzedakah, he thinks that the money has left him and that he has “lost”. But this is a mistake, a huge fundamental mistake.

“Tithe you shall tithe” (Devarim 14:22), our chacham explained tithe in order to become rich [this is a play on the Hebrew word for tithe, which is similar to the Hebrew for become rich, Ta’anit 9a]. If the giver realised what berachah is inherent in his actions and what berachah will reach him in the merit of what he gave, he would be even more upset why he didn’t give more.

The Ben Ish Hai, Rabbeinu Yosef Hayyim of Bavel z”l relates a story about a person who earned his livelihood from growing produce. Every year the field produced 100 tonnes of produce. He would donate 10% to the poor and retain 90% for his livelihood. After some time he became old and called his children and said to them, “Continue in this way and you will see a berachah in your toil!” But his children were extreme misers and the following year they only gave 9 tonnes to tzedakah, instead of the 10 that their father would give. To their shock, the following year the field only produced 90 tonnes instead of 100 tonnes. They saw this and reduced the donation to the poor to 8 tonnes, whilst keeping the rest. The following year the field produced just 80 tonnes of wheat. And so it was every year, ongoing reductions, until in the end the field only produced 10 tonnes of wheat instead of the 100 that it yielded in their father’s lifetime.

The children went to the city’s rav and asked him to explain what was going on. The rav answered them as follows, “According to the halachah the owner retains 90% and the poor 10%. So as long as you father gave the poor their 10%, he retained 90%. But since you reduced the tzedakah to the poor from what they were entitled to, so Hashem, who is the ultimate owner of the field, took 90% and gave you just 10%. You must revert to the custom of your righteous father and separate the tithe according to the halachah. Then in turn the berachah will revert to your field as it did with your father.”

Shabbat Shalom!

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