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In parshat Re’eh, we encounter the mitzvah of tzedaka. It is interesting to note that twice the Torah uses double language, in connection with this mitzvah:

First, we are instructed: “Ki fato’ach tiftach et yadcha lo—you shall open your hand to him,” the double language of “patoach tiftach” is used (Devarim 15:8). Then, after warning that one should not withhold supporting the underprivileged as the shemitah year nears—the Torah reiterates (Devarim 15:10): “Naton titein lo—You shall surely give him,” again using the double language of “naton titein.” What is the significance of this double language?

During the summer months, there is a custom to learn Pirkei Avot. In chapter 3:15, it states: “Hakol tzafui, vehareshut netunah, uvetov haolam nidon, vehakol lefi rov hama’aseh—All is foreseen, and freedom of choice is granted. The world is judged with goodness, but in accordance with the amount of man’s positive deeds.” The last clause emphasizes that the quantity of our positive deeds is significant.

This is a concept that is referenced by many and cited by the Sefer HaChinuch on several occasions—stressing that, “Acharei hapeulot nimshachim halevavot—our heart follows our actions.” In other words, it is crucial to conduct ourselves in a certain manner, as our conduct influences our attitude and belief. When we repeat certain activities, they become innate within us. For example, the Chinuch (mitzvah 16) explains that it is prohibited to break a bone while eating the korban Pesach, because eating in such a manner is not befitting of nobility and we ought to conduct ourselves in a dignified manner. If we act like an animal, it will impact our behavior.

The Rambam in “Perush Mishnayot on Avot,” applies the imperative of tzedakah to the lesson taught above regarding quantity of deeds. The Rambam posits that it is preferable to donate one gold coin to 1000 individuals rather than to contribute 1000 gold coins to one single individual. By repeating the act of giving, the trait of generosity becomes embedded into our personality.

Based on this Rambam, the “Lehitaneg b’Taanugim” suggests that the repetitive language of “naton titein” and “patoach tiftach” is to indicate that the more one engages in the act of charity, the more significant the impact on the giver. He relays a story in which Rav Chaim Friedlander visited Rav Schach and informed the rav that he was very ill and his days were numbered. Rav Friedlander inquired as to how to spend his remaining time—studying Torah or working on his middot. Rav Schach replied that he should focus on improving his middot. If that was the instruction to Rav Friedlander—who was the mashgiach of Ponevezh and the prize talmid of Rav Dessler—then we ought to focus a bit more on our middot.

As the Yamim Noraim are around the corner, it is time to place more of an emphasis on our middot. To try to engage to an even greater degree in the performance of chesed and mitzvot, so that we can engrain positive attributes within our personality.


Rabbi Shalom Rosner is a rebbe at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and rabbi of the Nofei HaShemesh community. He is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau (www.mizrachi.org/speakers).

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