Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Rambam - Laws of Gifts to the Poor - Chapter 10 - Law 2


Dedicated for an Illuy Neshama to:
Nathan Gershon ben Nathan ז"ל


"It will never be that a person will become poor through giving Tzeddakah (charity - see Law 1 in this series,) and no bad thing or damage will come about because of the Tzeddakah. As it says, 'And the outcome of the act of Tzeddakah will be Shalom (peace.)' (Isaiah 32:17)

"Anyone who has mercy (on others), they (G-d) will have mercy upon him. As it says, 'And He will give mercy to you, and He will have mercy upon you and He will multiply you.' (Deuteronomy 13:18)

"And anyone who is cruel and does not have mercy, there is to suspect his ancestory, for cruelty is only to be found with idolators. As it says, 'They are cruel and they will not show mercy.' (Jeremiah 50:42)

"And all of Israel and those who accompany them are like brothers. As it says, 'You are children to the L-rd your G-d.' (Deuteronomy 14:1)

"And if a brother will not have mercy upon a brother, who will have mercy upon him?! And to whom will the poor of Israel lift up their eyes to?! To the idolators who hate them and pursue after them?! Indeed their eyes are directed only towards their brothers."


While we are constantly worrying what will become of us for giving up something that we feel belongs to us, the Rambam points out the folly in this. Charity - kindness - does not result in a loss. On the contrary. As our Rabbis have taught, the money one spends for Shabbos and Yom Tov is all on G-d's account and will certainly come back to one! There are those who say that this applies to all commandments of the Torah, and the money which one spends in serving G-d is truly on HIS account!

It's true, it may seem like we're giving up some of our own money. But we know all to well that sometimes, once in a while, we walk into the clothing shop when there's a special on, and we get 30% off on that beautiful garment we'd love to have. While just yesterday we were unable to afford it, today, it's one special!

And then of course there are those days where everything is going perfectly... until the sirens blaring behind us wake us in realising we may be travelling beyond the speed limit. And we could be in for a fine... Then again, sometimes the fine just doesn't go through!

Then there are those times where the plumbing just doesn't work and the service fee for the plumber can take us off guard! And then, there are those days where we purchased some magazine with coupons in it - and we're in for much savings off items we really need. And then there are those days where for some odd reason money - which had no basis for coming to one - simply found it's way to one's very doorstep!

Such is life!

Of course, G-d never actually writes us a cheque with His signature on it - assuring us that He's paying us back for all our efforts in kindness. Besides, how many of us would want to cash such a cheque - it has G-d's very own signature on it after all. It could be worth a small fortune, if we'd just find some wealthy person out there who'd like to frame it! But the truth is, the cheques are indeed signed. While actual physical people sign them, they only work - whether coming through to a person or whether the bank cashes them - because G-d makes it happen!

So while we're living our lives apparently seeing the reality of how things really are, G-d is monitoring just how kind we are with others, and through His "individual divine providence" - Hashagacha Pratit, He begins an amazing orchestration of events that brings us to certain places on certain days - meeting certain people at certain times. And all of this has a huge bearing on just what happens with our money that day - and forever more.

It may seem like our salaries are fixed - or even if we work alone, it may seem like we're always just pushing the mark to make it through the month - but in either of these cases, there is no such thing as a fixed amount. In fact, we are not only judged once a year on Rosh HaShanah, but each and every day throughout the year - and in fact each moment. One kind deed can suddenly turn the wheel of fortune around for us bringing us to the opposite side. There are no rules to the "Mitzvah Game!" There are no revealed rewards or points offered for each thing that we do. But it is certain that our kind deeds do in fact change things for us. And certainly by bringing further kindness in the world, one can rest assured that no harm will befall one.

And if it may seem that some harm did indeed befall one, and one wonders just how such things could come about when we've listened so hard to the Rambam in understanding about no harm befalling us for doing good, perhaps we should rethink it out again. Perhaps, in fact, we were saved from something far worse occurring. Perhaps, G-d, in His kindness, actually orchestrated an event of "hardship" to actually bring further goodness to one.

Imagine the story of the poor man who for years battled through his day to day work just to make ends meet. Nobody offered him a real job and he simply lacked any sort of good fortune. And then, suddenly with no money in his bank account and not much to look forward to in life, he fell, breaking both his legs. Imagine the pain such an individual would go through. Imagine his anger at the event! He is rushed to hospital, to find himself in a bed directly opposite a multi-millionaire tycoon! And they begin talking about life. The wealthy man is impressed with the sincerity of the poor man, and before long has offered him a job working for him - offering him the luxuries of wealth, decent working conditions, and a friendly working environment. As things turned out, the tycoon has a beautiful daughter who is of marriageable age - and it just seems like the perfect Shidduch... Months later, the wheel of fortune turn, and this poor fellow begins to see only revealed good in his life.

What would he say now of his fall? Yet many times this is exactly what happens with each of us. Sometimes we see the revealed good, and other times, it is hidden - but it does exist (somewhere!) If we're only patient enough to look for it - or to examine ourselves and objectively see where we stand with things, we might actually see the good in everything. Strange but true!

But not only does the Rambam state that no harm will come to a person from giving Tzeddakah, but more so, G-d will actually give a person even more! Mercy has a strange way of working. When we give of it just a little below - G-d awakens much more above. And although we may not always see it, it is certainly happening - right before our eyes. One may well remember a time that one went through a "Stop" sign without not only being noticed, but not encountering another car. Yet we often fail to notice the "small" miracles... But they happen.

The Rambam points out though - that for a Jew - the natural thing is to act kindly - to give Tzeddakah when it's always needed. To think that a Jew can think anything less than this, would be to seriously have to consider if in fact he is a Jew!

A Jew undertands though that he has only another Jew to turn to. While we rely completely on G-d for everything, when it comes to practical efforts, we keep together and work together. We behave in ways that clearly shows that when we are in need of help - there is another Jew who will be there to help us.

But perhaps, instead of always saying - I hope one day that another Jew will help me, why not turn it around and hope to be that very Jew himself! There's no need to have to wait for Elijah the Prophet to appear before one helping one out in everything one needs. One can rather take the initiative and the role to be Elijah the Prophet himself, helping others when they most need it!

May our acts of kindness and love for our fellow man unite us all so that we may be deserving of the final redemption with the revelation of Moshiach and may we be redeemed immediately!

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