Mosaic Weinberg

Why Does Tzdaka Remove The Evil Decree?

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Aug 18, 2019


ותשובה ותפילה וצדקה מעבירין את רוע הגזירה

Tshuva, tfilla and tzdaka rescind the evil decree.



Tshuva - I get it. Changes a person thoroughly and transforms the past errors into good.


Tfilla - Of course. Ditto. Hashem listens to our tfillos and will happily change things for the better if we sincerely ask and appreciate Who is in control.


But tzdaka? Why does THAT remove the evil decree?? It is very nice to give but how does it fit into the framework of tshuva? 


Says the Rambam [Matnos Aniim 10-1]:


חייבין אנו להזהר במצות צדקה יותר מכל מצות עשה שהצדקה סימן לצדיק זרע אברהם אבינו שנאמר כי ידעתיו למען אשר יצוה את בניו לעשות צדקה ואין כסא ישראל מתכונן ודת האמת עומדת אלא בצדקה שנאמר בצדקה תכונני ואין ישראל נגאלין אלא בצדקה שנאמר ציון במשפט תפדה ושביה בצדקה:

We are obligated to be careful with regard to the mitzvah of charity to a greater extent than all [other] positive commandments, because charity is an identifying mark for a righteous person, a descendant of Abraham,our patriarch, as [Genesis 18:19] states: "I have known him, because he commands his children... to perform charity." The throne of Israel will not be established, nor will the true faith stand except through charity, as [Isaiah 54:14] states: "You shall be established through righteousness." And Israel will be redeemed solely through charity, as [ibid.1:27] states: "Zion will be redeemed through judgment and those who return to her through charity."


Why are we obligated to be careful about tzdaka more than all the other mitzvos??


The Gemara in Rosh Hashana [32b] says:

 מנין שאומרים מלכויות? תניא רבי אומר 'אני ה' אלקיכם' וכתיב 'ובחדש השביעי' זו מלכות ע"כ.


In other words it says in the parsha of giving tzdaka to the poor -


וּבְקֻצְרְכֶ֞ם אֶת־קְצִ֣יר אַרְצְכֶ֗ם לֹֽא־תְכַלֶּ֞ה פְּאַ֤ת שָֽׂדְךָ֙ בְּקֻצְרֶ֔ךָ וְלֶ֥קֶט קְצִֽירְךָ֖ לֹ֣א תְלַקֵּ֑ט לֶֽעָנִ֤י וְלַגֵּר֙ תַּֽעֲזֹ֣ב אֹתָ֔ם אֲנִ֖י יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם:

When you reap the harvest of your Land, you shall not completely remove the corner of your field during your harvesting, and you shall not gather up the gleanings of your harvest. [Rather,] you shall leave these for the poor person and for the stranger. I am the Lord, your God.

Right after that it says ובחודש השביעי - on the first of the seventh month we observe Rosh Hashana which is a time when we accept upon ourselves the Kingship of Hashem. So from the juxtaposition we see that the way to accept Kingship is by giving tzdaka. 'המלכת ה is expressed through tzdaka!!! 


WOW! [עי' בס' באור פניך פ' י"ט]


If Hashem is the true King - מה שקנה עבד קנה רבו. Whatever is acquired by the servant is automatically acquired by the Master. So where did our money come from? Who does it still belong to?


Says the Ohr Hachaim on the pasuk אם כסף תלוה את עמי:


אם כסף – במכילתא רבי ישמעאל אומר כל אם שבמקרא רשות חוץ מזו וכו׳. וצריך לדעת למה ידבר ה׳ בדרך ספק במקום ודאי. ואולי כי בא הכתוב להודיע ולהשיב גם כן לאשר ישאל השואל בראותו כי ירבה כבוד אדם בזהב לרוב ואוצרותיו מלאים הון עתק ללא צורך בו ויאמר אדם מה הנה אוצרות זהב לאדם ללא דבר למה לא הספיק ה׳ לתת לו מזונותיו הצריכין ולא יהיה זה גדול מיעקב אבינו אשר שאל (ברשית כח כ) לחם לאכול ובגד ללבוש, הן אמת כי מה שיחסר לאדם מכדי צורכו יש טעם בדבר ליסרו על עונו מה שאין כן אוצרות הון למה לאיש אין לו צורך בהם, לזה הודיע הכתוב כי הסובב דבר הוא אותם שאינם ראוים לקבל חקם לצד מעשיהם כי ה׳ בחסדו נותן שפע הצריך בריוח לכל איש ואיש די מחסורו והיה כי יחטא אדם ואינו ראוי לקבל פרנסתו בכבוד מאל הכבוד החלק המגיעו לא יטלנו עליון אלא הרי הוא מתקבץ אל מקום אחר ותהיה פרנסת הלז עם אדם אחר הבא לו דרך שם פרנסתו ויתפרנם בפחיתות ובביזוי כאשר גזר הגוזר בצדק. ויעשה ה׳ בדרך זה לב׳ מדות טובות הא׳ להשתלם אדם בעולם הזה פעלו הרע, והב׳ כדי שיזכה הנותן באמצעות נתינת צדקה וחסד לרעהו.

וזה הוא אומרו אם כסף תלוה את עמי פירוש אם ראית שהיה לך כסף יתר על מה שאתה צריך לעצמך שאתה מלוה לעמי תדע לך שאין זה חלק המגיעך אלא חלק אחרים שהוא העני עמך, ובזה רמז כי צריך לפתוח לו משלו. ואולי כי רמז לו גם כן שלא יתנשא ויתגדל על העני בראותו כי הוא הנותן לו, והוא אומרו לא תהיה לו כנושה לשון נשיאות ומעלה כי משלו הוא נותן לו. וחזר לומר כנגד ההלואה לא תשימון עליו וגו׳.

אם כסף תלוה, If you lend money, etc. Rabbi Yishmael says in the Mechilta that the word אם in any other verse in the Torah means that something is optional. In this case the word אם means "when" and not "if." We need to understand the whole concept of God employing the word אם to describe things which may or may not occur. Why does God not phrase legislation in a definitive manner? Perhaps the Torah wants to provide an answer also to those who ask why some people seem to enjoy far more riches than they can possibly need in their lives. Such a questioner may well point to our patriarch Jacob (Genesis 28,20) who asked God for the necessities of life, i.e. bread to eat, and clothes to wear." While we can understand that depriving man of his necessities may have morally rewarding results seeing that the person so deprived may be punished for wrongdoing and may turn to prayer in order to expiate his guilt, what is the educational value of giving someone excess wealth? Our verse provides the answer to this question. Generally speaking, God in His great kindness provides generously for the needs of all His creatures. He allocates a fixed amount for these needs. When a person has not qualified for receiving his needs at the hands of God directly because he is guilty of sinful conduct, God does not recall the amount that would have been allocated to such a person, but He redirects it to someone else. As a result, the person who does not receive his livelihood from God directly, either suffers deprivation or is forced to receive his livelihood through another channel. Receiving one's livelihood by means of a fellow human being instead of at the hands of God is demeaning for the recipient. When God re-allocates the channels by which such a sinful person receives his livelihood, He practices two virtues. 1) By punishing the person in question in this world for his sins, the sinner is encouraged to rehabilitate himself. 2) God gives the wealthy person an opportunity to use his wealth constructively by performing charitable deeds.

This is the true meaning of: "when you lend money to My people, the poor who is with you." The Torah suggests that if we find ourselves in possession of more than we need, we are to lend it to someone whom the Torah, i.e. God, describes as עמי, "My people." The meaning of this verse is that if you become aware that you have more money than you need for your personal requirements it is clear that the excess had originally belonged to someone else, i.e. "the poor amongst you." This is a clear hint that you should open your hand to lend to the poor part of what used to be his, or had been intended for him. Perhaps the Torah even hinted to the wealthy person that when he extends a loan to the poor he should not credit himself with being a superior person seeing that the loan only represents a partial return to the poor of what had originally been intended for him by God Himself. This may also be the reason why the Torah says: "do not act as if you were his creditor." The word נשה is related to נשיאות, a superior status or posture; the Torah reminds the lender that what he lends to the poor was the property of the poor in the first place. This is why the Torah goes on to speak about the prohibition to charge interest on the loan.


Anyone who has extra money is just a banker holding on to the money of others. To give tzdaka and loan money is to show that one accepts upon himself the belief that it is all Hashem's money and he give it to us in order to share with the less fortunate. THAT is קבלת מלכות שמים. To say "I accept myself Hashem as King" is relatively easy. To show it on a check with zeros is, for many, harder that death. קשה כשאול. It is THIS MITZVA that separates the spiritual "men from the boys". 


People will give their children hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a house [or more!!]. But when someone who is not their child needs money for minimal living expenses, sometimes they are turned away empty handed, or sometimes are given a dollar, five or ten and that's it. I am not suggesting that every poor person receive hundreds of thousands of dollars - but where is the proportion? Hashem doesn't love my son or daughter more than He loves the other person's child. 


A powerful shift in perspective is provided by the Rambam in the very next halacha:


וכל ישראל והנלוה עליהם כאחים הם שנאמר בנים אתם לה' אלהיכם ואם לא ירחם האח על האח מי ירחם עליו ולמי עניי ישראל נושאין עיניהן הלעכו"ם ששונאין אותו ורודפים אחריהן הא אין עיניהן תלויות אלא לאחיהן:

The entire Jewish people and all those who attach themselves to them are as brothers, as [Deuteronomy 14:1] states: "You are children unto God your Lord." And if a brother will not show mercy to a brother, who will show mercy to them? To whom do the poor of Israel lift up their eyes? To the gentiles who hate them and pursue them? Behold their eyes are pointed to their brethren alone.


EVERY JEW IS MY BROTHER OR SISTER! Hashem gave me extra money so that I would have the merit to give it to them. WIN-WIN. They get the money. I get life in both worlds. 






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