The mitzvah of charity goes on the Eternal ledger and stands as a merit for us in this world and in the next.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Re’eh” (Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17), and it is packed with a variety of mitzvot (Torah commandments). One area of focus is the mitzvah of tzedakah – charity.
This week’s reading is one of the sources in Scripture for the idea of “tithing” – donating 10% of one’s income to charity (Deut 14:22). Although not an absolute obligation according to the letter of the law—as any amount of charity is still a mitzvah—it is very commendable to endeavor to give at least 10% of one’s earnings to charity. Those who want to give more than 10% are permitted to give up to 20%. Giving more than this amount is generally forbidden, as we must be sure to have money for our own needs.
The sages teach us that those who are careful to give 10% of their earnings to charity will become wealthy. What’s more is that we are even permitted to “test” God for the fulfillment of this promise. There is no other mitzvah in the Torah that allows us to “challenge” God. If we use our money in a way that God wants, then He will give us more with which to do so. Try giving 10% of your income to charity, and tell God that you want to see some results!
The mitzvah of charity is a reminder that there are more meaningful things that we can do with our money besides spending it on ourselves. Using our money to help others gives us satisfaction that cannot be found when using the same money for our own pleasures. The mitzvah of charity goes on the Eternal ledger and stands as a merit for us in this world and in the next.
Another source for the mitzvah of tzedakah in this week’s reading is the verse “You shall surely open your hand” (Deut 15:11). Looking at the original Hebrew text, one will notice that in this verse the word “open” is repeated twice. So, too, when the Torah tells that we will receive blessings for helping others, it uses the word “blessed” twice. We see from here how important it is to help others. Don’t merely “open your hand,” but REALLY [double use of “open”] go out of your way to help someone.
I believe that the double wording used in the context of both performing and being rewarded for charity carries a deeper message. How so?
With most mitzvot that we perform, we make God happy, he marks us on the scorecard, and we get a reward. Done. However, when it comes to the mitzvah of tzedaka, not only is it true that we make God happy, but it is one of the few mitzvot with which we make others happy!
That’s the double reward: the reward that God promises and the reward of seeing another person happy. In fact, it might even be difficult to discern which reward is better!
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah reading, click on the links below:
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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