Monday, 31 August 2015
Charity - And The Agony of Debt
There's no need to jump on the "it's coming to Rosh HaShanah" bandwagon to speak of the importance of Tzedakah - charity. The Chumash (Bible), Talmud, Codes of Jewish Law and just about every other major work in Jewish "folklore" and mysticism speak about this Mitzvah. From the wisest of all men (King Solomon), the message comes out clear and strong, "Charity saves from death" (Proverbs 11:4). In fact just typing the word צדקה (Tzedakah) in Hebrew into a search engine brings up the remainder of these words as its first choice for suggested pages צדקה תציל ממות!
This isn't a post about the benefits of Tzedakah. It's a post about debt. There's a synonym for it which simply does not appear in any thesaurus; it seems it can only be used in one direction for synonym purposes of course. It is "agony." The person in debt takes a look around the world in day to day events. He sees others embarking on extravagant holidays, purchasing new cars (regularly), purchasing dream homes (which are often not lived in save for once a year for just a week - as is so often the case in large amounts of apartments purchased in the most expensive areas in Israel.) I'm not talking about the person in debt due to his drug habit. Nor about the person in debt because of his gambling habit. I'm talking about those who struggle every month to make it through. I'm talking about those who - comes the day before their rent payment is due for their most modest apartment, wonder how they are going to get enough to pay that amount due in 24 hours.
The stress is agonizing! The will to continue living - overbearing. The image of the cruel landlord from years ago who would throw their tenants into prison for not paying rent is not just a past event. The renter of today - the one in debt - fears every day of the possibility of finding his treasured few personal possessions to be on the street come the next month. His dream of owning his own home is a fantasy that will never be realised.
The debtor - finding himself "sold" for five years or more to his bank - feels the additional pressures yet again of the possibility of taking out another five year loan - even before his first loan is paid back. What will be then?! Faced with a lack of Gemach organisations - Jewish organisations offering interest free loans - he can only turn to banks - often finding himself with additional questions related to loaning from and paying interest to a Jew - something forbidden by the Torah. But with no choice left in his life and nobody to turn to he must hope that at the very least, he will not transgress this prohibition in his life.
The Jewish holidays approach. Another Sukkah must be purchased because the wind may well have destroyed his old one a year before. New Schach must be purchased. A new Lulav and Etrog. How will he afford these things?! His Tallit is turning brown from use - even dry cleaning won't help. His Mezuzot need checking, his Tefillin need checking.
But with all this, he forgets - he will need to eat. There are still medical expenses - even for necessary check ups. There is clothing he may need - new shoes - just like we all do. Any monies he could possibly save for anything, must be paid to the loan sharks (most likely banks today,) with huge interest fees - and it just keeps adding up - just like the Torah teaches - charging interest is like the bite of a snake. At first one does not realise the bite has occurred. But little by little, the venom increases, the poison enters and before long, there is no way to stop the build up. There is just no way out!
The world goes around. Many with huge resources continue a life of luxury ignoring the tremendous lack of homeostasis those without must confront every day of their lives. When will it end for them(?) - is a wish they long for every single day.
The debt runs into the tens of thousands - and sometimes more. How will it ever be possible to get out of it? Being involved in Tzedakah, I have seen people come through in amounts that have overwhelmed me. When I grew up, I never believed that some people will help - I mean really help! But in the years I have worked in Chessed Ve'Emet, I have seen these things with my own eyes. I call these people "miracle makers." In nature, the poor man is stuck with poverty. He will remain in debt forever. But here - a man /woman - not necessarily "of means" comes through and turns everything around for the poor man. A sizable donation sets things right giving the poor man an opportunity at life again. Giving him the possibility to purchase equipment he may need to start his own life in earning a respectable livelihood again. It is like a miracle has occurred! The air can be breathed again. The miracle maker comes through and saves the day!
Miracle makers: People who identify with that debt, that feeling of hopelessness of the other, lost in a world that judges and moves about because of one thing only - money. These people take hold of the easily available tools of modern technology today - and with just a few clicks - from any part in the world - enter a magic number. A transformational number - which can turn the life of a person so totally lost of hope - into a person who can restart and readjust to getting their life back on track again - not because they ever did anything intentional and criminal to deserve it - but just because that is where they are at.
The years have passed on. The debt is just too big. It's not getting any better.
If it's a Jewish holiday that inspires you to give, the feeling that you've helped another, the assurance that charity will protect you in this world - and give blessing in the next, please consider giving generously by selecting an amount that you can afford and clicking the Buy Now button below. Do it now - and make a difference in the life of another - someone maybe quite desperate. Become a miracle maker - yourself.
For further information on the activities of our organisation Chessed Ve'Emet, see www.lovingkindness.co or contact Reb Eliyahu directly.