July 21, 2024
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July 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

One night a few weeks ago, one of our children had a cold and was coughing. Before they went to sleep I picked up the humidifier in order to fill it up with water. As soon as I lifted it I heard the unmistakable sound of clinking coins. When I tried to get them out I realized that they had been inserted into the compartment which housed the motor, and the humidifier was more or less useless. When I asked my two older children how the coins had gotten in there, they both replied curtly, “Avi!”

Apparently, 2-year-old Avi decided that the little horizontal spaces from which the humidifier’s vapor blows looked like a pushka. Avi concluded that the humidifier was a wonderful cause worthy of charity and so he promptly contributed to it all the coins he found. How ironic that we couldn’t even use those coins to buy a new humidifier.

The Shulchan Aruch teaches that there is a hierarchy of priorities that one should consider when giving charity. Of course, any charity that one gives is a great mitzvah, but there are certain organizations and needs that should take precedence over others.

A number of years ago I had the zechus to hear a drasha from Harav Yaakov Hillel, shlita, while he was visiting America to raise funds for his yeshiva.

As he was preparing to leave, Rabbi Hillel related a profound anecdote from the Chofetz Chaim. A collector for a reputable Torah institution once came to the Chofetz Chaim very downtrodden. “Rebbe, I spend my days knocking on doors trying to explain the great merit of assisting a yeshiva and the extreme importance of the yeshiva. Often doors slammed in my face, I am cursed at, spit at and humiliated. Last week, a secular fellow came to town collecting for an organization completely antithetical to Torah values. Within one day he collected more money than I receive in three months and he moved on to the next town. Why does he make his money so easily while I have to suffer so much?”

The Chofetz Chaim replied, “You see, God doesn’t want that person circulating the town promulgating his negative ideas and organization, so He ensures that he receives his money and gets out as quickly as possible. But you are promoting a yeshiva. Even when doors are slammed in your face and people scorn you, the bottom line is they are still being exposed to the concept of supporting a yeshiva. That is a message that God wants others to hear, and so He arranges that you are around for much longer.”

Rabbi Hillel concluded, “At times, people ask me why I have to come to America and leave my yeshiva in Yerushalayim to raise a million dollars a month. I tell them that it is because God wants others to hear about the yeshiva and to have the opportunity to take part in its holy work.”

This morning, a friend of mine related the following classic anecdote: One morning, a collector met the great philanthropist Baron Mayer Amschel de Rothschild, as the baron was rushing out of his home. When the collector stretched out his hand, the baron replied that he was busy and the collector should return later. The collector replied, “Would you allow me to at least say one word to you?” The baron stopped, “Yes you can say one word.” The collector bowed slightly and said, “Gemara!”

“What is the meaning of that?” “It’s an acronym for “Git morgen, Reb Amschel (Good morning, Reb Amschel).”

The baron smiled and nodded. “Now that I see you appreciated the word, can I tell you one more word?”

Curiosity overcame him and the baron motioned for him to continue, whereupon the collector repeated the same word, “Gemara!”

When the baron looked at him quizzically, he explained that it, too, was an acronym for, “Gebb ma’os, Reb Amschel (Give money, Reb Amschel),”

Impressed with the man’s wit, Reb Amschel reached into his pocket and handed the collector a few coins. The collector thanked him and then asked to say one more word, again repeating “Gemara!”

“What is it this time?” “Geb merr, Reb Amschel (Give more, Reb Amschel).”

Someone once said, “Don’t give until it hurts; give until it feels good!” I would add that we must also be careful of who we are giving to. We have to make sure we are prioritizing our charity so that we can get the best bang for our buck!

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is the rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead, as well as guidance counselor and fifth grade rebbe in ASHAR, and principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor, and a division head at Camp Dora Golding. He also presents parenting classes based on the acclaimed Love and Logic methods. His email address is: [email protected]. His website is: www.stamtorah.info.

By Rabbi Dani Staum

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