July 22, 2024
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Charity Benefits the Donor

Parshat Terumah begins with the mitzvah of asking each person to give a portion. Rashi translates this as requiring each person to set aside a portion of one’s resources for a higher purpose. R. Samson Raphael Hirsch goes on to elaborate that the word “terumah,” comes from the root word meaning to uplift. The effect of the contribution was to elevate the giver and his concept of the purpose of the wealth with which Hashem has blessed him. In other words, giving of one’s resources actually may be helpful to the giver, sometimes more than the receiver.

Rabbi Levi Neubort once made the point in a drasha that we, as individuals, are only acting in a fiduciary role, much like a stockbroker or a banker, when it comes to managing the money that Hashem has entrusted us with. Every Rosh Hashanah, our income is determined for the upcoming year. We are entrusted to use that money wisely. Like a broker, we are entitled to take a percentage for commission and use it for our own needs. However, Hashem wants to see a return on his investment with us as well. Did we use the money for charitable purposes? Did we advance Torah values and education? Did we perform tikkun olam and make the world a better place?

Remember, if your broker were to take all of your money for himself and did nothing for you, he would probably be fired and you would deposit your money with someone more trustworthy. Similarly, if you used all of your resources only for yourself and did not contribute to charitable purposes, Hashem might decide next year that you were a poor manager of the money he entrusted you with. You might not be as lucky when the next Rosh Hashanah came along.

Giving a portion of one’s money towards charitable needs is actually a sure bet towards increasing one’s wealth. The prophet Malachi, speaking in God’s name, challenges the Jewish people. He states (Chap 3:10) that “If you bring your tithes to me, you may put me to the test. I will surely open the floodgates of the Heavens for you and pour down unlimited blessings.”

The Talmud in many places similarly teaches us that one who gives charity is guaranteed to benefit in many ways. R. Yitzchok (Baba Batra 9b) tells us that anyone who pursues charity, giving to the poor or leading others to do so, God furnishes him with additional money with which to perform his acts of charity. R. Yehoshua ben Levi stated that anyone who gives charity will merit to have sons who are wise, prosperous and honored. The Talmud goes on to state that giving charity saves one from death and certainly saves one from gehenom in the afterlife. It also brings us closer to the final redemption and the coming of Mashiach.

Conversely, one who withholds his money from charitable purposes and uses it all for himself or gives significantly less than he should takes the chance that he might suffer financial reversals. The story is told (Ketubot 66b) of Nakdimon ben Guryon, a multimillionaire, who lost all of his wealth because of his stinginess. His daughter was reduced to a pauper in the streets who had to beg for food and clothing.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov tells us that there is another aspect to the mitzvah of giving charity that differs from the usual understanding of simply giving money. That is the giving of one’s time, advice and compassion to another in need. He stated that the mitzvah of giving charity is also fulfilled whenever a person gives to another in this way during their time of need.

The Gemara (Baba Batra 9b) similarly advances this idea. R. Yitzhak is quoted as saying that whoever gives money to a poor person is credited with six blessings. However, if someone consoles the poor person with words of comfort and encouragement, he receives eleven blessings. Thus, we see that comforting words and showing compassion is sometimes even more praiseworthy than simply giving money in certain situations.

May we all merit to be predestined to receive our wealth and prosperity in a generous manner. At the same time, let us all remember to give a portion of it back towards charity and improving the world, promoting Torah values. If we act in a proper fiduciary manner with the money we are entrusted with, may we be entrusted with a larger portfolio in the years to come. In the merit of fulfilling this most important mitzvah of “terumah” in our day, may we hasten the arrival of the final redemption and the coming of Mashiach.


Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic clinical psychologist in private practice. He is acting president of the Chai Riders Motorcycle Club of NY/NJ. He leads the Summit Avenue Shabbos Gemara shiur and minyan in Fair Lawn, New Jersey and is a member of the International Rabbinical Society. He can be reached at [email protected].

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