Reaping the Rewards
Chazal (Vayikra Rabba 34:8) say, "loosely translated,' that when a transaction of charity takes place, the donor gets the better deal. The wealthy think they are helping the poor, but they are helping themselves even more, because they gain many blessings and success, due to their charity. As Rut told Naomi, “The name of the person who I helped today was Boaz.” She didn’t say “the name of the person who helped me…,” rather “whom I helped.” Because the poor help the wealthy more than the wealthy help the poor.
Rebbe Zusha zt’l of Anipoli would say, “The wise take, the fools give.” The explanation: The wise know that when they give charity they are taking and earning. The fools think they are giving and losing. They don’t realize how much they earn from their charity. It also states (Exodus 25:2), “Take a donation…” It should say “Give a donation.” It states “Take a donation” because whoever donates is taking and earning the most.
We now list some of the benefits one earns by giving charity:
1. Protects Your Money The Gemara (Bava Basra 10) states, “Just as the amount of livelihood one will earn during the year is destined on Rosh Hashanah, so is the amount of money one will lose during the year destined from Rosh Hashanah. If he has merits, he will give that money [that he is destined to lose] to the poor. If he doesn't merit, he will give the money to the government...” Isn’t it a shame to work hard for money, and then to lose it the government, to doctor bills, to failed business ventures, and the like? Those losses are destined from Rosh Hashanah, and one can’t escape them. However, one can divert those losses. Instead of losing money to the government, to doctor bills, to bad business ventures, one can "lose" that money to charity (which is really not a loss at all).
The Gemara tells that on the day after Yom Kippur, Reb Yochanan ben Zakai dreamed that his nephew will lose seven hundred dinars that year. Reb Yochanan ben Zakai came to his nephew several times that year, asking him to give charity. His nephew ended up giving 683 dinars to tzedakah. On the day before Yom Kippur of the following year the tax collectors came to his nephew. Reb Yochanan ben Zakai told him, “Don’t worry. They won’t take more than seventeen dinars” (683 + 17 = 700). The nephew asked, “How do you know?” “I had a dream…” “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have given the entire seven hundred thousand dinars to charity.” “I wanted you to give the charity for its own sake.”
2. Deeds of Kindness Rouse Hashem’s Compassion. The Gemara (Shabbos 152) states, “Whoever has compassion on others, will receive compassion from heaven. Whoever doesn’t have compassion on others, won’t receive compassion from heaven….” Similarly, the Zohar (vol.1 104.) states, “When Hashem loves a person, He sends him a gift. What gift? A poor person, so he can earn the mitzvah of charity through him. Hashem places a strand of kindness over [the host]…to protect him from danger…” The Midrash (Shemos Rabba 45:6) states: Hashem showed Moshe all the treasuries of heaven. Moshe asked about one treasury, “Who is this treasury for?” Hashem replied, “It is reward for those who do the commandments.” Then Hashem showed Moshe a very large treasury. “Who is this treasury for?” Hashem replied, “Whoever deserves reward, I give him his reward. And whoever isn’t worthy, I give him from this treasury. It is the treasury of free gifts. As it states, "How does one earn the free gifts? We can explain, that Hashem gives free gifts and kindness, to the people who Hashem enables them the opportunity to do kindness to others. Hashem reciprocates and mimics their good deeds, and does kindness with them. (Based on Avodas Yisrael, Ki Sisa). In summary, the rule is: When one does kindness, he receives kindness. When one has compassion, he receives compassion.
3. Atonement. Avos d’Reb Nosson (4:5) writes, “Reb Yochanan ben Zakai was once walking in Yerushalayim, and Reb Yehoshua was walking behind him. They saw the ruins of the Holy Temple. Reb Yehoshua said, “Woe to us! We used to bring sacrifices in the Holy Temple which would atone for all our sins, and now we don’t have anything to grant us our forgiveness.” Reb Yochanan ben Zakai replied, “My son, don’t feel bad. We have atonement similar to the sacrifices. That is 'acts of kindness' as it states (Hoshea 6:6), “I want kindness, not sacrifices.”
4. Long Life. The Midrash (Bereishis Rabba 59.) states: Reb Meir went to Mamla and saw that everyone in that city has black hair. No one was white. There were no elderly people there. Reb Meir asked them, “Perhaps you are from Eli’s family, which about them it states (I Shmuel 2:33), ‘the people of your family will die young?’” They replied, “Rebbe pray for us.” He said, “Give charity and you will merit long life.” He taught this from the verse (Proverbs 16:31), “The crown of elderly is found in the path of charity.” The Midrash (quoted in Orchos Yosher, Gemilus Chasadim) tells the following story: There was a Torah Scholar who was traveling for business. An innkeeper saw him, and said, "Rebbe, if you want, I can travel with you." The Torah Scholar replied, "Come in peace." As they were walking, they met up with a blind pauper sitting near the city. The Torah Scholar quickly took out a coin and gave it to him, and he told the innkeeper to do the same. The innkeeper said, "I won't give him anything, because I don’t know him as you do. It was good that you gave him since you know him, but I won't give anything." The Torah Scholar replied, "If you don’t want to give, that's your choice." They walked further and met up with the angel of death. The angel of death introduced himself, "I am the angel of death" and they became very afraid. The angel of death said to the Torah Scholar, "You gave charity…therefore your life will be spared. You will live another fifty years." The angel of death then said to the innkeeper, "But for you, your final day has arrived." The innkeeper replied, "We traveled together. Is it right that he should return home and I should die?" "Yes. He deserves to live since he gave charity." "Let me give charity now!" The angel of death replied, "Fool, if one didn’t prepare provisions on land what will he have on the sea? Similarly, if someone didn’t prepare in his lifetime, it is too late to prepare when he's dead. What happened, happened, now your time to die has come." The innkeeper said, "Before you take me, allow me to praise Hashem for all the kindness He has done for me." The angel of death replied, "Since you want to praise Hashem, years have been added to your life." From this story we learn the benefit of praising Hashem. It can add years onto one's life. The story also teaches us the importance of charity. It can save one’s life.
Someone who G-d forbid, had cancer came to the yeshiva where Rebbe Mordechai of Zvhil zt’l learned, gave him some money, and asked him for a blessing for a healthy recovery. Rebbe Mordechai of Zvhil gave him his blessings. Shortly afterwards, the man was healed. Thirty years later that man's illness returned. (By that time, Rebbe Mordechai of Zvhil had already become the Zvhiller Rebbe.) Once again, the ill man took a lot of money and went to Rebbe Mordechai of Zvhil, requesting that he pray on his behalf. The Rebbe replied. "Don’t give the money to me. I suggest you give the money to So-and-So. He will pray for you and with the help of Hashem you will recover." The ill person said, "Why can't I give you the money? Thirty years ago, I received my recovery when I gave you money, so I want to give you the money now again." The Zvhiler Rebbe replied, "Thirty years ago I was poor. You became better in the merit of charity. But now, baruch Hashem, I don't lack money. Give your money to the poor. The merit of charity will help you recover."
5. Olam HaBa. Obviously, the primary gains of giving charity will be earned in Olam HaBa. The Me’il Tzedakah (431) tells a story about a wicked person who committed many sins throughout his life. Once, he was very ill, he had not eaten for several days. His family urged him to eat something. He said, “If you will cook an egg for me, I’ll eat it.” A pauper came to their door just then, begging for food. The miser said, “Give him the egg.” That was the first time in his life that he gave charity. The Me’il Tzedakah reveals that the pauper was on the brink of dying from starvation, and the egg saved him. Thus, all the mitzvos that this pauper did subsequently, and all the children he gave birth too after that episode are attributed to the miser’s merits, for he granted him life. The miser died three years later. He came to his son in a dream and told him, “Give charity so you will merit Olam HaBa. My entire life, I gave charity only once, when I gave that egg to the pauper who came to our door. That one mitzvah turned my fate around and I merited Olam HaBa, despite my many sins.”
The Ben Ish Chai zt’l tells: Two poor people became wealthy. When they met, one asked the other, “What did you do to become wealthy?” He replied, “Our rabbi told us, if one tithes his money for charity, he will become wealthy. I followed this segulah, and I am now very wealthy. Now tell me how you became wealthy.” He replied, “Our rabbi told us, ‘Honor your wives and you will become wealthy’ (Bava Metzia 59:). I followed this counsel and I became wealthy. I see that the counsel my rabbi offered is better than yours, because all my wealth remained in my home, while your money left your house and went to the poor.” The wealthy man immediately went to his rabbi and complained. “Why did you tell us to give charity to become wealthy? You should have told us that there is an easier route. One can become wealthy by honoring one’s wife!” The Rabbi replied, “You are right: both paths result in wealth. However, the one who honors his wife is wealthy in this world. The one who supports the poor earns dividends in both worlds. This is hinted at in the verse , which can be translated as, “Don’t be afraid if you see someone becoming wealthy because he honored his wife,” because when he dies he won’t take the wealth with him. But those who become wealthy by giving charity will have spiritual wealth in Olam HaBa. It is also hinted at in the verse (Psalms 112:3), which we can translate as, "If one honors his wife the wealth remains solely in his home. It doesn’t come with him to his grave. but charity remains forever.
6. Joy. The Yesod HaAvodah of Slonim zy'a was once walking along the roadside. A carriage drove by. "Rebbe!" the elderly Jew in the wagon called out, "climb onto the wagon and come with me. Why walk? I'm going in your direction." "I don’t mind walking," the Rebbe told him. "Please come," the elderly Jew pleaded. The Yesod HaAvodah realized that he won't accept no for an answer, so he boarded the wagon. Once inside, the Yesod HaAvodah asked, "Why is it so important for you that I join you?" The elderly Jew pointed to his ears, "These ears heard Rebbe Moshe Kobriner zy'a say, ‘A day one doesn’t do kindness is a dead day. Since then, I seek to do a kindness each day.” Chazal teach: There are four types of people whose lives aren’t considered a life. They are: (1) the childless (2) lepers/tzaaras (3) the poor (4) the blind. We can explain that they are compared to the dead because they aren’t able to do kindness. Someone with leprosy lives in isolation. In quarantine, he certainly can't help others. The blind are also limited in how much kindness they can do for others. The poor can't help others with money. The childless don’t have on whom to bestow their love. The inability to do kindness makes these people feel dead, G-d save us, therefore, they are compared to the dead. In contrast, helping others is from the greatest pleasures in life.
7. Wealth. Shulchan Aruch (Yorah Dei'ah 247) writes, "No one ever became poor, and nothing negative ever happened, because of giving charity… Charity makes people wealthy…" The Dubno Magid zy'a told the following parable: Someone lost a gold coin. He traced his steps, returned to all the places he walked that day, but he couldn’t find the coin. However, in his quest to find the lost coin, he found two other gold coins. If he is wise, he will thank Hashem for the loss, because it resulted in two gold coins. Before he only had one. If he is a fool, he will say, "If I wouldn’t have lost my gold coin, I would now have three gold coins." Now, think about a person walking through a field carrying a sack filled with seeds, and there's a small hole in the sack. As he walks, the seeds gradually fall out and become planted in the ground. The seeds take root and sprout produce. Now even a fool will understand that he only gained from his loss. The crops wouldn’t grow if it weren't for the loss. Charity is called planting, as it states in Hoshea 10, because the money one gives to charity flourishes, and one can earn wealth from it.
"Give Maaser so you will become Wealthy"
The Gemara (Shabbos 119) teaches that the wealthy people of Babylonia earned their wealth in the merit of honoring Torah. The people in other countries earned their wealth because they honored Shabbos. The wealthy people in Eretz Yisrael earned their wealth because they were cautious to give a tithe. As it says (in this week's parashah 14:22), 'tithe [your money] so you will become wealthy.'"
The verse (Malachi 3:10) adds, “Test me in this regard and see that I will open up the windows of heaven…” One is permitted to test Hashem in this regard, and to see that by tithing, one becomes wealthy. The Vilna Gaon zy'a taught, when one gives one tenth of his earnings to charity, that money will come back to him. When one gives a fifth of his money to charity, he will become wealthy. Reb Chaim Volozhiner zt'l would give a fifth of his money to charity, as the Vilna Gaon advised. Once, he wasn't certain whether he gave a fifth. He was certain that he gave a tenth, but he didn’t remember whether he gave another tenth. He decided he wouldn’t give more charity, since he was certain he gave the primary amount of a tenth. Suddenly, some of his belongings fell into a well, and he couldn’t get them out. Reb Chaim evaluated the loss; it was exactly one tenth of his earnings. He immediately gave another tenth to charity. Soon afterwards, the lost objects were retrieved from the well.
The Dubno Magid zt’l tells the following parable: A merchant docked from a distant land with many bolts of cloth in the hold of his ship. Some of the bolts were thick, others where thin. The merchant said, “Each bolt has at least sixty meters of cloth on it.” Based on that amount, he set a set price for each bolt. But people suspected that perhaps there wasn’t sixty meters, and they asked him to measure the cloth before them. He didn’t have time for that. He wanted to finish his sales there, and travel off to other cities to sell his merchandise there. So he said, “I will measure the thinnest bolt before you. You will see that even that bolt has sixty meters. That will be your sign that the thicker bolts certainly have more than that.” What we learn from the parable is that Hashem gave us 613 mitzvos. But how does one know he will gain from keeping the mitzvos? Perhaps one loses out? Hashem answers, take the mitzvah of charity. From all the mitzvos, this mitzvah seems to cause the greatest loss, since he gives his money away to the poor! Test this mitzvah and you will see that it results in wealth. This is your indication that one only gains from the mitzvos. One never loses. (For example, some people think that the time they spend learning and praying takes away from their work and livelihood. Let the mitzvah of charity remind them that one doesn’t lose from keeping the Torah.)
Rebbe Avraham Yaakov of Sadugeira zt'l taught: ראה is roshei teivot ראש אלול היום, today is the start of Elul. The Trisker Magid zt'l explains, I am giving you Elul before Rosh Hashanah. This month was given to you, to help you prepare for Rosh Hashanah. The Arizal writes, "On these days Hashem becomes a friend…to the person who does teshuvah." As it states, "I am to my Friend and my Friend is to me," and the roshei teivos spell אלול. The Panim Yafos zt’l teaches: there are twelve hours by daytime. Hashem compassionately considers each hour of Elul to be like a day. Thus, in the thirty days of Elul, one can attain atonement for the entire year. Because 12 X 30 = 360.
The Vilna Gaon (Esther 1:4) calls Rosh Chodesh Elul, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur the three, painful days, for the yetzer hara, because people do teshuvah on these days. The Kedushas Levi writes, "On Rosh Chodesh Elul, Hashem reveals to the Jewish people that He is G-d…and that He leads the world." How does one know whether a rusty metal is just a cover of rust, or whether the rust is through and through? One places a magnet on it. If the magnet attaches, that’s a sign there’s good metal underneath. This is used as an analogy for Elul: People become rusty in their service of Hashem. They've lost their passion. But Elul should be like a magnet, pulling them to Hashem and to improvement. If they remain unmoved, that’s a sign they have become thoroughly rusty.
Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk zy’a wouldn’t accept visitors during Elul. He devoted this month entirely for Torah, prayer, and teshuvah (repentance). One wealthy person, however, was desperate. His son became insane and desperately needed a salvation. As he was wealthy, he believed he could do things others aren't permitted to do, and he decided he would bring his son to the Rebbe even in Elul. While traveling, they met up with a pauper. The boy said, “Give this man a generous donation.” The father was startled. This was the first sound sentence the boy spoke in a long time. Since he was so pleased with his son’s improvement, he gave a half-gold coin to the pauper. The pauper asked them, “Where are you headed”? The father told him that they were going to the Rebbe Elimelech of Lizensk because his son became insane. The pauper replied, “But your son is healed! Why should you bother the tzaddik? You know the Rebbe doesn’t want visitors in Elul.” But the father decided that since he already traveled so far, he would continue. When he came to Lizensk, he gave the Rebbe twelve gold coins. The Rebbe said, “Am I greater than Eliyahu Hanavi? You only gave Eliyahu HaNavi a half-gold coin, and you give me twelve gold coins?” That's when the father understood that the pauper he met was Eliyahu Hanavi. Reb Yisrael Avraham Tchernostrau zt'l (the son of Rebbe Zusha of Honipoli zt'l) told this story, and added, “Notice how precious Rebbe Elimelech’s Elul was to Hashem. They sent Eliyahu Hanavi to heal the wealthy man’s son, to prevent them from disturbing Rebbe Elimelech's service in Elul.”
The Or HaMeir's sister was making a wedding, and she very much wanted that her brother, the Or HaMeir should attend. The problem was the wedding would be in Elul, and the Or HaMeir generally didn’t travel in Elul. He resolved he would begin the journey, and if Heaven doesn’t want him to go, he would receive a hint from Heaven to return. Still at the beginning of his journey, he saw a gentile beating an old man. The Or HaMeir was startled by this scene and asked the gentile what this was all about. The gentile replied, "It’s the sowing season now. If we don’t plant our crops this month we lose the entire year. There will be nothing to harvest. This old man is my father. He promised he would take care of my young son, as I work on the fields. But my father is always sleeping, and I have to take care of my young son. That's why I beat him. We simply cannot lose out on this month. If we do, we will suffer the entire year." The Or HaMeir understood that Hashem was sending him a message, and he returned home. Because if you miss this month, the results can be felt the entire year.
There was a businessman who would often seek business counsel from the Sfas Emes. Once, the Rebbe told him, "Now it's Elul. The wisest investment, which earns the greatest dividends — spiritually and materially – is to invest in this month.
Reb Moshe Feinstein zy'a teaches that just as we should tithe our money, Torah scholars should donate one-tenth of their learning hours to teach Torah to people who aren’t able to learn well on their own.
After the Holocaust, a survivor, who didn’t have the opportunity to learn Torah during the war years, came to a yeshiva in London to study Torah. All the students were far more advanced in Torah than he was, and they didn’t have time or patience to study with him. He relates that no one helped him, other than two bachurim: "Tuvya and Moshe." He was referring to the two gedolei Yerushalayim, Reb Tuvya Weiss Shlita and Reb Moshe Shternbuch Shlita. They tithed their time to help others learn Torah.
The Zohar calls Rosh Hashanah היום.
In parenthesis, the Vilna Gaon adds an additional three days that are painful days, for the yetzer hara: "The fast days of the 17th of Tamuz, 9th of Av, and 10th of Tevet."