Last week we discussed the importance of quality over quantity. Quality is first, but should quantity be totally ignored? It doesn’t seem right that a person should be able to give an insignificant amount ,let’s say a dollar a year, and satisfy his obligation to give charity- even if he gave it with the most sincere motives.. There has to be some guide line to determine how much to give. What does God expect of us ? Is there a minimum and perhaps even a maximum?. We won’t discuss the maximum in this column. But the minimum needs commentary because the Talmud clearly states that if you want to become rich, just tithe or give back to God 10% of your profits. See the verse in the parsha (14:22)’ tithe (written twice in the original text) the entire crop of your planting.”
On the surface this is very problematic we are taught to perform good deeds, mitzvoths, sincerely, with the intention to truly help or just to obey and do it for God’s sake. How can the Talmud , which is also the oral tradition of the Torah handed down on Sinai, even hint at such a selfish approach to giving charity?!
I have two answers. 1- some are of the opinion that this is an exception to the rule. In the case of tithing one’s crops or one’s income God permits you even to test him. Go ahead, give the 10% to charity and see if you sustain a loss at the end of the yr. God promises that not only will you not lose, you will gain and do very well earning more than you need or expected.
But I prefer the second answer. Which is, when the Talmud states that if you give 10% you will gain wealth, it does not mean to say that that should be your intention. Not at all!! You must only give with pure sincere intentions to help the needy or to obey God’s will. It’s just that the mitzvah of charity has within it spiritual energies that bring you a blessing of abundance. Charity is like a river . If you dam it up, stopping the flow, the source of the river will feel the back up and diminish its supply . But if you keep it flowing the source will keep on feeding with more and more water.
The same rule applies to a mezuzah . we should not put a mezuzah on the door for it’s protective powers. We should put it proudly on our door to do God’s will by fulfilling his commandment and remembering God as we enter and leave our homes- by glancing at or kissing the mezuzah. But, when we do that we are making use of the holy spiritual energy in the mezuzah to seal out various forms of danger – sometimes even death. But protection should not be our sole intention. We should do it for God’s sake.
The rule of !0% is a minimum and only for most people. However, If a person is very wealthy although his 10% will be a substantial amount he still may be considered miserly in Heaven and not necessarily benefit the wealth described in the Talmud. A person is expected by the heavenly court to give according to his true ability and if he gives less ,the wealth is not” in the pipes”.
In 1976 the great Yemenite kabalist Rav Moredchai Sharabi, was visited by a “‘well to do ” business man who was in a terrible state. He told the Rav That he was afraid of going bankrupt.. what can I do to avoid it? The rav answered, The only way to avoid the bankruptcy is to start giving at least 10% from his monthly income. He must start immediately. “if you do so I know that your business will be again prosper. This was not what the man expected to hear but he felt encouraged by the Rabbis words and followed his instruction. Sure enough his business began to prosper. He happily reported back to Rav sharabi that the Rav’s advice came true and he established a monthly arrangement of ma’ aser, tithing, for distribution to the needy.
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We welcome your comments and questions. Kol tuv and Shabbat shalom.