VOLUME 72 NUMBER 4 August 22, 2014 Av 26, 5774
An Open and Shut Case
by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
Philanthropy is one of the most central tenets of our religion. Indeed, the Talmud clearly states that giving charity is a tremendous merit and spares one from the potential sentence of Gehinom. Yet, we sometimes find it difficult to part with our money.
We often think our money is our possession, not a resource that Hashem has entrusted to us to use for the appropriate needs, and subsequently we don’t want to give it away. The Torah addresses this concern stating that if we encounter an impoverished person, we musn’t harden our heart and close our hand. Rather, we should open up our hand and provide for those who aren’t as fortunate.
Ohr HaChaim questions the approach that the Torah uses to persuade us to give. If a person doesn’t want to give, how is instructing him to open up his hand going to help? He cites the verse in Proverbs that says that one who spreads his wealth will accumulate even more. This means that when one shares his assets with others, Hashem opens his storehouse of prosperity and allocates it to that person. Therefore, one can be generous and give without being concerned that he will suffer a loss. On the contrary, Hashem will compensate him and he will eventually have even more that he initially had.
Furthermore, even if he only loans money to someone in need of capital, Hashem will repay him more than the amount he lent. Certainly when one realizes that he will be reimbursed for his kindness, his heart will soften and he will loosen his grip on his money and allot it for this important mitzvah.
Malbim adds another dimension to the meaning of the Torah that you should open your hand and give to the needy. The language used stresses that you should embrace a liberal posture and absolutely open your hand. The Midrash understands that even if you must provide numerous times for the poor, nonetheless that is your obligation. Malbim explains that the Torah is not actually stating this as a requirement that you should constantly give, rather as an assurance. Although the very first time may be challenging, however, once you perform the mitzvah, you will be inspired to continue fulfilling this gratifying deed of benevolence and empathy. This is the intent of the Torah, that once you embark upon a path of realizing Hashem’s will, the essence of munificence within you will be stimulated.
Ba’al HaTurim adds yet another wonderful insight to encourage one to contribute charity. He cites a verse from the prophet Nachum who uses a similar language of certainly giving. He understands, based upon the reference from the prophet, that if one is generous with his monetary resources and assists others, the gates of prayer will open and Hashem will respond ‘generously’ to his requests and needs. Conversely, if one does not heed the call of those who are unfortunate, then Hashem will ignore his ‘call of need’ as well. The world revolves on the principle that the way we conduct ourselves with others determines how Hashem treats us as well.
We will soon begin the month of Elul which precedes the Day of Judgment. An entire year has gone by in a flash and soon our scorecard will be scrutinized by the Heavenly Court. On that day, supplication will pour forth from our lips and hearts to secure that the next year will be one of prosperity, the best of health and ongoing nachas from our children and family. One way to insure that our prayers will be heard and listened to is to respond to others when they need our help. When we are approached by an organization that supports the needy and we open our hearts and our hands to assist those who are impoverished, then Hashem ‘opens His heart and ears’ to react favorably. As we say in the Musaf service on Rosh Hashanah, that one of the three tools that we can use to avert an evil decree is charity.
Joke of the Week
How do you know if you’re upside down?
Your nose runs and your feet smell.
A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
The parsha begins by stating that one should ‘see’ that G-d placed in front of him the possibilities of blessing and curse. Although you may ‘see’ that you deserve blessing, don’t forget that blessing is Heaven sent, stemming from our connection to and our regard for G-d’s Torah.