A Second Thought About Giving Charity

A Second Thought About Giving Charity

A homeless person begging

The Talmud tells the amazing story of Mar Ukva who would go everyday to the home of a poor man and slip cash into his door post. The poor man really wished to know who was doing this and decided one day to find out. On that day Mar Ukva and his wife made the trip to the poor man’s house together but just as they were opening the door post the poor man came running towards them. The two of them fled because they did not want to embarrass the poor man by him finding out that one of the greatest rabbis of the generation was coming personally to his home everyday to secretly help him. The Talmud says that the only way they could escape him was to jump into a hot oven where the coals had already been raked. Mar Ukva’s feet began to burn and his wife told him to put his feet on top of hers because her’s were not burning. The Talmud explains that her merit of charity was greater than his because, being in the home, she could offer the poor instant care with ready made food while her husband’s care was only in the form of money. What makes the story even more incredible is that the Talmud says that when Mar Ukva was about to die he had a ledger where every coin he ever gave to charity had been recorded. And even though the amount was amazing he said, “the road is long and my supplies are few” referring to his upcoming trip to the Next World. He then gave away fifty percent of all his holdings which was considered ten times what the Talmud normally considered to be exceptionally wealthy. From this story you see an outstanding Torah scholar, a leading rabbi and perhaps one of the wealthiest men of his generation who not only took time and money to personally care for the poor but dreaded the thought of being discovered and honored for his donations. Something for us to all think about next time we pledge donations for honor or we feel particularly holy because we slipped a small coin into a desperate person’s hand. Talmud Kesubos 67b

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Vayetze | ויצא | “He went out ” Torah: Genesis 28:10-32:2

Parashat Va’yetzeh

How does one water the sheep when a great stone is in the way? How do the nations drink from the well when there is no Rabbi to teach them the way of Torah? There are many secrets that must be revealed in this weeks Torah portion and only Chazal have the answers. Their students are waiting for the sheep to gather and in the meantime, many Rabbi’s are watering them from the well and there they are kissing each other and bring chesed to the world.

Genesis 28 – 32 Beit El

י וַיֵּצֵ֥א יַעֲקֹ֖ב מִבְּאֵ֣ר שָׁ֑בַע וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ חָרָֽנָה׃

יאוַיִּפְגַּ֨ע בַּמָּק֜וֹם וַיָּ֤לֶן שָׁם֙ כִּי־בָ֣א הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ וַיִּקַּח֙ מֵאַבְנֵ֣י הַמָּק֔וֹם וַיָּ֖שֶׂם מְרַֽאֲשֹׁתָ֑יו וַיִּשְׁכַּ֖ב בַּמָּק֥וֹם הַהֽוּא׃

יב וַֽיַּחֲלֹ֗ם וְהִנֵּ֤ה סֻלָּם֙ מֻצָּ֣ב אַ֔רְצָה וְרֹאשׁ֖וֹ מַגִּ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמָ֑יְמָה וְהִנֵּה֙ מַלְאֲכֵ֣י אֱלֹהִ֔ים עֹלִ֥ים וְיֹרְדִ֖ים בּֽוֹ׃

Toldot | תולדות | “Consequences”

Parashat Toldot

Is being blind such a bad thing? Can we assume that Yitzach made so many bad decision? Who is Yitzach and what was his motivation in our Jewish history? Yitzach was an expert in finding water where there seems to be no water. Have you ever have seen a man who digs in the rocky desert for water? Yitzach was a great man of strength to dig for the answers of life and the deep waters of Torah. So being blind can help sharpen one’s senses if you are sensitive to Hashem’s ways.

Sometimes having your eye open can lead to doing Hashem’s will.

Genesis 3: 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves girdles. 8And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden toward the cool of the day; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. 9And the LORD God called unto the man, and said unto him: ‘Where art thou?’

Can you see where you are? Faith is knowing what your eyes do not see and not knowing what your eyes do see. Faith is not blind. 

Genesis 25 – 28

יט וְאֵ֛לֶּה תּוֹלְדֹ֥ת יִצְחָ֖ק בֶּן־אַבְרָהָ֑ם אַבְרָהָ֖ם הוֹלִ֥יד אֶת־יִצְחָֽק׃

כ וַיְהִ֤י יִצְחָק֙ בֶּן־אַרְבָּעִ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה בְּקַחְתּ֣וֹ אֶת־רִבְקָ֗ה בַּת־בְּתוּאֵל֙ הָֽאֲרַמִּ֔י מִפַּדַּ֖ן אֲרָ֑ם אֲח֛וֹת לָבָ֥ן הָאֲרַמִּ֖י ל֥וֹ לְאִשָּֽׁה׃

Parashat Hayei Sarah

Chayei Sarah | חיי שרה | “Sarah’s life “
And Yitzchak said to Avraham his father, and he said, “My father,” and he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Here is the fire, and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” And Avraham said, “God will provide Himself a lamb for the burnt offering.” And they went, both of them, together. (Bereishit 22:7-8)
Life is so very short and yet the days can seem to last for an eternity with no hope in sight. So many ups and downs in this life, who can make sense of them all?
Yitzchak’s life was so short it seems. Yet, he outlived all the Patriarchs. Yitzach was 180 old when he went to sleep with our forefathers. There are only five chapters devoted to Yitzchak’s life compared to Abraham and Ya’accov’s lives. Avraham 13 chapters and Ya’accov 20 chapters.
How can a life seem, so short, and yet, be so long? The pains of life can be as a fire and the counsel of men can be as crackling wood in the fire. The flames of this life can seem to be overwhelming at times. So, how can one walk through this fire and not be burned?
How can I see the fire and the wood and yet trust that everything is going to be good?
Know that my Torah is like a fire that brings you warmth in the cold and as a flaming fire that goes before you in the times of trouble and anguish to make you bold before the enemy. Trust that my (Hashem’s) counsel is superior to your wisdom and the counsel of fools. For the Torah is a flame and the tree of life to those who hold on to it and all its path are peace. And like Rivkah, the ewe/ lamb was found watering the camels until they had all drank from (Mayim Hayim)  living waters, so may your soul be quenched in this day as we are lead by Hashem.
Nechama Leibowitz offers an interesting interpretation of a verse from the consolation of Yishayahu: “While those who wait upon God will renew their strength; they will rise up with wings like eagles, they will run and not be weary; they will walk and not faint” (Yishayahu 40:31):
This verse raises a question: as we know, the general rule in Tanakh is that the two parallel parts of a verse proceed from the lighter form or scenario to the more intensive one. Thus, this verse should read, “They will walk and not faint, [and even if] they will run – they will not be weary.” Why, then, is the order here reversed?
In moments when we are raised up on waves of enthusiasm, we are all capable of one-time acts of heroism. We are able to elevate ourselves to great heights; we can gallop forwards. It is far more difficult to fulfill one’s daily obligations, to follow the beaten track even after the initial excitement has worn off, when the glorious glow of the vision has grown dim, when we encounter challenges and obstacles. It is difficult to remain consistently steadfast in the face of all of this without tiring. Therefore, the order of the verse is correct: “They will run [with galloping enthusiasm] and not be weary,” but even when they have to walk, to continue, without racing, “they will not be faint.” (Nechama Leibowitz, Daf le-Tarbut Yehudit11, Tevet 5734)
Continue to walk chaverim carrying the fire and the wood of Hashem and let us go together as one and may Hashem find the Rivkah/lamb in you that will not faint at watering the world.
Parashat Hayei Sarah
Genesis 23 – 25
א וַיִּהְיוּ֙ חַיֵּ֣י שָׂרָ֔ה מֵאָ֥ה שָׁנָ֛ה וְעֶשְׂרִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה וְשֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֑ים שְׁנֵ֖י חַיֵּ֥י שָׂרָֽה׃
ב וַתָּ֣מָת שָׂרָ֗ה בְּקִרְיַ֥ת אַרְבַּ֛ע הִ֥וא חֶבְר֖וֹן בְּאֶ֣רֶץ כְּנָ֑עַן וַיָּבֹא֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם לִסְפֹּ֥ד לְשָׂרָ֖ה וְלִבְכֹּתָֽהּ׃
ג וַיָּ֙קָם֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם מֵעַ֖ל פְּנֵ֣י מֵת֑וֹ וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אֶל־בְּנֵי־חֵ֖ת לֵאמֹֽר׃