Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Rambam - Laws of Charity 10:6 - Encourage Others to Give and Become Greater than the Giver








“One who encourages others to give charity and pushes them [drives them to do this good act] – his reward is greater than the one who gives! As it says, (Isaiah 32:17) “And the product of Tzeddakah is peace.” And concerning those who collect funds for charity and similar to them it states, (Daniel 12:3) “And those who teach righteousness to the multitudes [will shine] like the stars.”


Everybody in this world is able to give. Even those lacking fortunes of wealth! Although the Rambam points out in the previous law that there are some who actually cannot give for lack of funds, there he mentions that one can still give through sympathising with another. This law applies when one finds oneself in the presence of another who is in need at that point in time. What about when one is not in the presence of those in need? How can one give then?!

The beauty of Torah is that it teaches that nobody is considered to be lacking. Even if it may seem like one is unable to give because one lacks the finances, one still has the ability to give in other ways. We are all G-dly. We are all givers. Even when one is not in the presence of someone in need – one can still give. Not only this, but his giving can be even greater than another who does give! This is achieved through the power of one’s words.

It is not for nothing that the Torah is made up of words. Words are the most powerful things in existence! In fact, the Hebrew word for “Word” – דבר – is the exact same word for the word “Thing.” A word is a thing, and with it one can achieve everything in existence. The world was created through the words of G-d – because He spoke things and the world came into being. “Let there be…” and “There was…” Through words, one can build up another, encouraging them to do better, or one can G-d forbid quite literally destroy another. This is the power of the word!




Imagine a Torah lesson taking place at your home. The Rabbi ends the lesson with an appeal to everybody to make some donation to aid his institution – to allow him to continue his work of outreach and aiding others. It’s true, you may not have the ability to give. In fact you may have your own charities that you give to already. As you sit chatting to friends in the group, you discuss with them the topic that possibly the Rabbi should have been an anaesthesiologist. He need not have studied for years about learning about the body, because you feel his lectures contain everything necessary to put everybody to sleep even without any chemicals! Everybody has a good laugh and all feel that their money could be given to far better causes than the already “well paid” “anaesthesiologist”!

Now, imagine the same scene again. This time, as you talk to your friends, you discuss how valuable the lesson was – how much one could gain from these words of wisdom, how much such a person could give to others if he had the finances available to continue his work uninterrupted. You still don’t have the money to give him, but instead you encourage others to give – those who you know who do actually have the ability to.

Notice the power of your words in even such a simple situation. Notice how, that without even being able to give directly, you are able to encourage others with the free air granted you so that you can articulate your words. Your mouth, while usually a vessel to receive, becomes a vessel that gives.


Those who encourage others are rewarded more than the giver him or herself. Sometimes a person lacks the initiative and support to go forwards with a project – especially when it applies to giving of their own wealth. When one encourages another, one literally gives them the life necessary to feel that their efforts are worth it, that they are doing something good for the world. They may even feel a sense of achievement at having now given to a cause that others think is good.

The power of life and death is in the tongue. A person who therefore uses his tongue to give life, is therefore greater than the giver himself who may not have given without the encouragement. He revives “the dead” with his words. He therefore truly brings peace into the world. He encourages another to give, giving life to that person. And when that person gives another, the other is revived too. And so, peace is brought into the world. And each action continues to bring more goodness into the world. Just as the voice of one shouting in a large open area bounces off mountains echoing it’s way through them as it sails through the air, so too do our encouraging words literally cause the world to be sustained – especially when we cause others to give of their wealth to those in need.

Interestingly enough, the verse the Rambam uses to quote from is located at chapter 32 and verse 17 of the book of Isaiah. In Hebrew, the Gematria (the numerical value) 32 is equivalent to the Hebrew word Lev – Heart… The number 17 is the same as the Hebrew word Tov – Good! It is this good heart of a person that speaks words of kindness and goodness to another, that then encourages them to act out on the deed. Even if you yourself cannot give, you can use your power of speech to encourage another. The value of your speech can be worth far more than the wealth in your bank account. In fact, it’s a great lesson for life in general. When one lacks something, one can always give, just by encouraging another!

The Rambam quotes another verse to illustrate the value of encouraging another – this time from the book of Daniel. Daniel lived at the time that the Jewish people were in the exile of Bavel – of King Nebuchanezzar the Rasha. This book in the Tanach is made up of some of the most amazing prophesies that will occur at the time of the “End of Days.” This verse that the Rambam quotes, relates directly to the final prophesy. Since the Torah always ends off with something good, it is most appropriate that Daniel’s prophesy ends off with this inspirational point as well.

“The wise shall shine like the radiance of the firmament – and those who teach righteousness [will shine] like the stars… forever and ever.”

Those with wisdom know that life is far more than just what we have financially and what we can give from that. Life is all about teaching (and fulfilling) the correct values and value systems to others. Although sometimes we ourselves cannot give materially, we can always encourage others. We can teach others, spur them on positively – and perhaps this will result in those people giving to others too – hopefully financially as well. It is these things that will bring in the final redemption – for Zion will be redeemed through Tzeddakah – a time when we will all realise that G-dliness is about recognising the greatness of every other person, bringing it out into the open, showing another that he/she too is a G-dly spark of Divine energy – and that with this, he can do wonders! When we encourage another, speaking words of kindness, we turn the world into a better place. Everybody benefits – and those who have received encouragement will be able to give others more too. And so, the goodness that emanates outwards from your few words of kindness to another – actually reach to thousands and thousands – and generation upon generation.




Imagine yourself teaching another the value of doing kindness, of giving charity to another. See yourself shining brightly for the light you have become. You are a star, illuminating the world at large. You have become a lamplighter and brought light and life to the world. All this… without even having given one single cent.

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