Monday, 9 August 2010
Give Some Charity: It Could Save your Life - TODAY!
If you have somehow found your way to this post today, it may be for good reason. As the Baal Shem Tov teaches – "Everything that one sees or hears should be used in the service of G-d." Nothing is coincidence. No matter what we're seeing or hearing, the Torah teaches us to "tune in." There's a message there just for us!
We have all been there… The doorbell rings and a poor man presents himself "begging" for help. In today's world, "beggars" seem to be popping up even more than ever! Practically every blog we visit sports a "donate" button from the author of the blog – often his only means to bring in money. (Check it out of course… he may be quite well off and asking for just that little extra!)
Or you check your email to find at least five to ten emails from a variety of institutions asking for your help! Let alone the numerous letters that arrive regularly from a variety of "solicitors." It seems like everybody has in some way today become a "beggar" of sorts – at least in our eyes! How do we react? Are we irritated at the "poverty" surrounding us? Do we become angry at the poor man for asking for nothing more than… life?! Are we angry at the Torah scholar for asking us to support his "habit" of studying all day without – apparently – actually making any contribution to the world?!
What of the new immigrant to Israel who so often seems to be running around from one side of Israel to the other (on a daily basis!) trying to get hold of everyone and anyone who will help them to be able to start their lives living in the Holy Land – when they have absolutely nothing?! Or what of the older couple who marry without any money?! Do we become irritated at them for "demanding" from us some sort of help so that they too can marry just like everyone else – with an attractive Chuppa, a beautiful Ketuba, a brand new suit and hat for the Chattan and a quality dress for the Kallah?! Do we feel they deserve less for their "crime" of marrying late?!
The list is endless. Have you ever heard of a Baal Teshuva with no money?! All such a person may want is a new pair of Tefillin which he cannot afford. He might even want a basic library of books to learn from – but nobody will help, because we feel that when G-d blesses him then he'll have. And if G-d doesn't want him to have, then he won't. Why is it *our* obligation to provide for someone else?! Let him get a real job, two or even three – so that he can support himself! Why must he be such a burden on society, often taking away from my opportunity to own a better car, the latest gadget or a new summer wardrobe?!
The Yetzer Hara (the evil inclination) can come up with thousands of excuses for not helping another – for not giving support – financial support of course! Just catch yourself next time you find some Internet site asking for your support – or a poor man literally begging at your front door – because nobody else cares enough to help him live just like everybody in this world deserves to – in their own home, married and feeling that they have the basics to have the strength to contribute to live – like everyone else. And when you catch yourself – as you may laugh at the irony of all this, you might want to consider a most awesome and beautiful teaching brought in the holy Zohar – that basic text of Kabbalah written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
Just when you thought that charity was all about the pity you need to take on another "poor wreck who just can't seem to make a life for himself," Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai gives us something else to think about… The "poor soul in need of help," may not be in as much need of help as you think. In fact, the poor soul in need of help may actually be… you!
And more than the giver seems to think he is giving to the poor man – it is the "poor man" who gives in far greater measure than the giver could ever hope to give the poor man! When the poor man makes his request, he does not do so for himself (though he is truly in need) – but it is G-d Who orchestrates events in a fair way. The poor man needs help! But so does the "wealthy" (the giver.) And so through pure Divine Providence, G-d brings the two together, for good reason. Let them both help each other, and let there be blessing for all…
In Bereishis (Parshat Vayera 104a) the Zohar teaches:
Rabbi Elazar said:
(He is about to explain that it is one G-d's kindnesses with those who love Him and observe His commandments, that before G-d comes to execute judgment, He presents them with a Mitzva that they will gain merit through it that no bad will reach them.)
And so it says: Come and see just how the Holy One blessed be He conducts His kindness with all of creation, and all the more so to those that go in His ways – that even at the time the Holy One blessed be He wants to judge the world, He causes one who loves Him to gain merit through a Mitzvah that the judgment will not come to the world.
For we have learned – at the time that the Holy One blessed be He loves a person, He send him a gift! And what is the gift?! It is a poor person that the Holy One blessed be He sends in order for him to gain merit – because the poor man below is actually an example of the "poor man above" which is the Divine Presence which is called poor, because she has nothing of her own. And since he gains merit (through giving) because of the poor man, the "poor man" Above draws down upon him a thread of kindness which is drawn from the right side. And He spreads it upon his head and makes an impression on him – so that through this, when judgment comes to the world, the "destroyer" will be careful not to harm him. And when the "destroyer" raises his eyes and he sees the imprint of the thread of kindness, he departs from him and is careful not to cause any harm to him. Therefore the Holy One blessed be He precedes for him a certain merit through which he can gain immunity.
Come and see! When the Holy One blessed be He wanted to bring judgment upon S'dom, he first gave immunity to Abraham through a Mitzvah, and He sent him a present of three guests in order that he would gain merit through them – in order that he would be able to save Lot his nephew from S'dom. That is what it means when it says, "And G-d remembered Abraham, and He sent out Lot from amidst the upheaval." It does not say, "And G-d remembered Lot," because he was not saved through his own merit. Rather he was saved in the merit of Abraham. And through what did the Holy One Blessed be He remember Abraham? He remembered what he had merited from before through the three angels!
Similar to this, a person who merits to give charity to others – at the time when there is judgment in the world, the Holy One blessed be He remembers for him the charity that he already did. At every moment that a person merits to do a Mitzvah – so it is written down Above. Even when judgment rests upon Him, the Holy One Blessed be He remembers his act of kindness that he did with others and the Mitzvah that he merited through this. On that day that judgment comes to the world, the charity that he did saves him from death. Therefore the Holy One blessed be He preceded to grant merit to Abraham with the Mitzvah of inviting guests in order to grant him merit – and through this merit, he saved Lot, his relative!
(-- Zohar with Matok Midvash commentary.)
Indeed, more than the giver gives to the poor man, it is the poor man who gives to the wealthy one! The wealthy man may believe all is well because he has "blessed himself with the work of his own hands" – feeling he has no obligation to give to another. His attitude may not just extend to his own – often selfish desires – but more, it may extend to showing an angry face towards the one asking for help. It really does not matter what the asker is in need of. He is surely in need – if he has been brought to "your door" asking for something. Should you be wondering if he really is legit, consider this… If he is, you will be performing a tremendous Mitzvah in helping him. If he is not, G-d overseas everything and can certainly cause events to come about that at one point or another will reveal his true fake identity. Yet as for you – when asked on the Day of Judgment about your transaction – you will yet be able to answer that you gave innocently and honestly in the hope that this beggar was real. It's a win-win!
Next time you may find yourself in the "uncompromising" position of being asked for help from a "beggar", consider instead, that it is not even necessarily that the beggar really needs *your* personal help. He just needs help, and is asking anyone to help. G-d will surely come through for him. But Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai teaches us to think a little differently. It could well be that a judgment is being ready to be issued from Above. But because of G-d's love, He does not want the judgment to reach the proportions He had intended. In order to prevent the judgment being executed, G-d allows us to sweeten the judgment. He brings us to a "beggar." Better yet – He brings the "beggar" to us! And He offers us the opportunity to "immunize" ourselves so that when the judgment is executed, the angel in charge ready to fulfill it's mission, will see a thread of kindness hanging over the person who performed this very kind deed. The angel will see this goodness, and realize that he has no power over such an individual, and he will depart… leaving all well with the giver of charity.'
Consider this: The beggar may not even be a real person… He/she may well be an angel or even the prophet Elijah. He'll never actually need the money you're going to give him. Where it goes – nobody knows! Instead, just like the angels in the story of Abraham – the "poor man" – the "beggar" – is really just a disguise of a beggar simply to give you the opportunity to perform a Mitzvah and save yourself.
Indeed… Charity saves from death!
For further sources discussing the value of Tzedakah (charity), including the importance of giving to the Land of Israel - Eretz Yisrael (E.Y.) and to those that live there, see:
Tanya Igeret HaKodesh – Chapters 3, 4 (E.Y. end), 5 (E.Y. end), 6 (E.Y. end), 8 (E.Y. end), 9, 10, 12, 16, 17, 21 (E.Y), 30, 32
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