There is an interesting problem that we all tend to experience when it comes to the issue of giving, it’s called “IDOWANNU”. Have YOU ever felt it? It’s what one experiences when someone else approaches and either sticks out their hand, asking for money, or they approach you asking for your time and effort. I have felt this many times. My wonderful wife, however, doesn’t seem to suffer from it. She is the first to offer help to anyone. She is the first to offer her time. She is the first to offer financial aid, even if it’s not clear where the money will come from. But we are not even on the extremes of this issue. We are both somewhere in the middle. There are extremes as well. On the one extreme are the miserly people, who can’t give anything to anyone – not even themselves! On the other are those whose hearts bleed for everyone and they give away everything that they have. (See the Rambam Laws of De’os (outlooks) Chapter 1 for more on this)
All of these are emanations of the people that we are. It’s part nurture, part nature, but it is also tremendously affected by the efforts that I invest in my life as well. So ask yourself: do you, like me, suffer from IDONTWANNU, better known by its other name giveaphobia? (Still don’t know what it is? It’s “I don’t want to” smushed up, or a fear/apprehension to giving)
Well, I can’t offer you an instant solution, what I can offer is perspective. Of course it’s not my own perspective, rather it is that of our sages, ob”m. But it starts with the real question: who is really the giver here?
In truth, although this topic is more of an issue when it concerns someone who is from “outside of the family”, the reality is that it effects even our outlook on money towards our spouses and our children as well. Let’s let that sit for a moment while I relate to you the issue in this weeks Parsha that made me think about it.
The Torah teaches us (Bamidbar 5:9-10) the following:
וְכָל תְּרוּמָה לְכָל קָדְשֵׁי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר יַקְרִיבוּ לַכֹּהֵן לוֹ יִהְיֶה: וְאִישׁ אֶת קֳדָשָׁיו לוֹ יִהְיוּ אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן לַכֹּהֵן לוֹ יִהְיֶה:
And all of the terumah (offerings) of all of the sanctifications of the Children of Israel, which will be brought to the Cohen, it will be for him: And a man, his sanctified things, to him they shall be, that which he gives unto the Cohen will be unto him.
The verse is a litany of commandments concerning the giving of things that are sanctified: Terumah and Kodshim.
Terumah refers to the relatively small portion of the crops that is given yearly to the Cohen. The Torah forbids a person to eat of any of the crops of his own field (called Tevel), and it is a truly severe issur until the terumah and the ma’aser is separated from it. The amount given as Trumah is less than a tenth, whereas the amount given for ma’aser is, as its name implies, one tenth of my crop. Clearly, the Torah is giving a commandment to actually give the terumah to the Cohen. So what does it mean when it ends and says lo yehiyeh, “it shall be for him”? Who, exactly, is “him”?
Kodashim, as well. Kodashim is a general term referring to things that are consecrated to HaShem. When the verse opens and says “And a man, his sanctified things, to him they shall be” obviously it’s not saying that he is their owner. They are not the property of “kodesh”, not him! (Our sages, ob”m (see Rashi) explain that this means that he is like their owner in that he gets to decide to which Cohen he will give them). But at the end of the verse as well it says again “a man who gives to the Cohen, it shall be for him”. What is the Torah trying to tell us by repeating “it shall be for him”?
Say our sages, ob”m, (see Rashi on verse 10) “There is a Midrash legend “And a man his kodashim shall be for him” he who holds on to his ma’asrot, in the end, his field will only produce a tenth of what it would usually make”.
The lesson is, say Chazal (=our sages, ob”m), that you are given too according to your giving.
Let me explain. This DOES NOT MEAN that if you give away everything that you have you will get back 100-fold, (although there IS nothing stopping HaShem from doing that…). This DOES mean that when we do the mitzvos as HaShem command us too – we are the real beneficiaries.
Chazal also say (Tractate Bava Battra on page 9 or 10) that the poor, once upon a time, would walk around and say to people “zaki bi”, which means “Get merits from me”.
They also say that (Midrash Rabba Ruth, 5:9)
More than that which the ba’al habayit (home owner) does for the poor man, the poor man does for the ba’al habayit.
The real emmuna outlook of giving both tzedakah (our monies) and chessed (our time and efforts) to others is not that “I am a loser”, nor even “I am now lacking as a result of doing this mitzvah”. Even if that is, to some degree what we feel.
The problem is that we “know” that HaShem runs the world, but we don’t always live on that level. Our goal in life is to be there though.
Now there is some blame to lay here. After all, we are the product of our parents, after all! As I mentioned previously, there is an issue called “nurture” which affects us on this issue, right Rabbi? SO, LET’S LAY THE BLAME AT THEIR FEET! Let’s find some comfort in blaming all of our life’s problems on our parents.
What do you gain from that?
You are what you are because of them, that’s true. But they are what they are from their parents, as well! And if you are going to go through life looking for who to blame, you might just as well skip over all of the middle-men and blame HaShem. After all, He is the one who put all of you in this situation, right?
While true – again – it misses the whole point. We are not given lives in this world in order to look for who to blame for life’s difficulties. We already wrote about this extensively in the 1, 2, 3, 4 blogs on the topic of “the meaning of life”. (With HaShem’s help this issue will be explained more fully in CE3, which I am presently working on). So instead of blaming, realize – that’s all part of the reason that you are here: to work on your shortcomings, especially in the realm of giving to others.
So, don’t blame. Recognize that you can’t change who and what you were up until today. But today you can make a difference!
But it starts with the lesson of this weeks Parsha. Who is it that is really doing the giving here? The answer: it’s not really you.
In this issue of giving it’s not you who is giving, rather you, the giver, are in actuality GETTING, and you’re getting WAY MORE THAN YOU GAVE. In reality, in the emmuna perspective of the mitzvah of giving, whenever you open up your purse-strings to give to another, you are really opening yourself up to receive tremendous beracha. As the Rambam writes in the Laws of Giving to the Needy (it’s late and I don’t remember where exactly) one never becomes poor from giving tzedakah properly.
The Gemara in Tractate Bava Battra 9 also teaches us:
ואמר רב יצחק: כל הנותן פרוטה לעני – מתברך בשש ברכות, והמפייסו בדברים – מתברך באחת עשרה ברכות: … ואמר רבי יצחק: מאי דכתיב משלי כא כא רודף צדקה וחסד ימצא חיים צדקה וכבוד? משום דרודף צדקה ימצא צדקה? אלא לומר לך: כל הרודף אחר צדקה – הקדוש ברוך הוא ממציא לו מעות ועושה בהן צדקה.
And Rav Yitzchak said, “Anyone who gives a peruta (small coin) to a poor man – is blessed with six blessings, and if he appeases him with words – he is blessed with eleven blessings.” … And Rabbi Yitzchak said “What (is the meaning of) that which is written, “He who runs after tzedakah and chessed will find life, tzedakah, and honor”? Because he runs after tzedakah he will find tzedakah? Rather this is to teach you: anyone who runs after tzedakah HKB”H will give him even more money with which he can do even more tzedakah.
Who is the real giver? It’s not you. But you have to give of “you” in order to really “get” it.
We are, in fact, put in this world to work on our giving, because it is one of the fundamental ways in which we can become godly ourselves. Do you want to be like G-d? Like HaShem? Then do what He does! And He is the giver par excellance! (For more on this topic review this blog on the meaning of life).
Again this topic is at the forefront of my mind now as I sit and write on the night before my Yeshiva’s crowdfunding event. I ask any and all of my readers to take part, to work on their giving and help my Yeshiva help others as it has helped me and so many other people. We have more to do, but we need your help to do it.
Baruch HaShem, since I wrote this our crowdfunding event was successful (i.e. we met our all-or-nothing goal), but the policy of the Yeshiva has always been that even boys of families who can’t afford it should be given a Yeshiva learning opportunity. Therefore anyone who can is urged to please give to our Yeshiva to help us to continue to help others. www.ohrdavid.org/donate thank you and tizku le mitzvos
However, this topic is far from over. I have yet to explain how this applies to our family lives, as well. I also haven’t spoken about how a person is to know when to give, how much to give and to whom. However, this will have to wait until a different time as I’m now going to bed!