Friday, August 22, 2014

Do not Have a Bad Heart

By Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh
Many times the Torah tells us to give charity, but in this week's portion it adds a command that is related to the heart. "Give to him and your heart should not feel bad when you give to him" [Devarim 15:10]. This also appears in the halachic ruling. "When giving, one should do so in a pleasant way, with joy and a good heart... And if one gives it with an angry and bad look, the reward is lost." [TUR Yoreh Dei'ah 249]. In the Siddur of the ARI it is written that the main reward in the world to come is for joy while giving charity, even more than for the charity itself.
This is something that should be studied in some detail. How can a person conquer his natural selfish and miserly feelings and be happy and full of joy for the fact that he is required to give away his hard-earned wages?
Evidently the answer to this question can be found in last week's Torah portion. There we were told, "Lest you eat and are satiated, and you will build good houses and dwell in them... And you will say, My power and the strength of my hand gave me all of this wealth. Rather, you should remember that your G-d is the one who gives you the strength to become wealthy." [Devarim 8:12,17-18]. The RAN writes in his tenth sermon that there are indeed some people who have great powers and unique traits, such as an understanding of wisdom, or the skill of amassing many possessions and becoming wealthy – such that it may really be true that their wealth stems from their own talents. However, even such a person must remember who gave him the power to become rich. The RAN emphasizes that it is not written, "He gave you the wealth." Certainly the man gathered the wealth, but we must always remember who gave us the strength to become wealthy.
Understanding this principle, that G-d gives us the strength to gather possessions, means that when a person gives charity he is not giving away something that belongs to him because he has pity on the poor person, but that his role can be compared to that of a treasurer who has been assigned the task of distributing money in the name of the Holy One, Blessed be He. Here is what David said when he finished collecting the funds for building the Temple: "The wealth and the glory come from You... And who am I and who are Your people that we have the strength to contribute so much? However, everything is Yours, and we have given it to You from Your own hand." [Divrei Hayamim I 29:12,14]. This can be compared to a child who asks his mother for money in order to buy her a birthday present. It is written, "Give Him from what is His, because you and your possessions all belong to Him" [Avot 3:7]. And, in Midrash Shmuel, "Many people were created to serve as nothing more than utensils and hands for the Holy One, Blessed be He."
Based on this, the "Lover of Yisrael" wrote that this explains the meaning of the verse, "Give to him and your heart should not feel bad... for because of this fact G-d will bless you." It does not mean that you will be blessed in the future because you perform the mitzva of charity, rather it refers to the past. "That is why you were blessed with more wealth than you need for yourself... He decreed that the deposit would be in your hands."
In this way, Rav Kook explained the halacha of pei'ah, leaving a portion of grain in the field to be collected by poor people. The owner is not allowed to distribute the gift, and the poor people must come into the field and gather it themselves. In this way the gift will take on an aspect of justice, and the poor man "will – as it were – be taking what is rightfully his, not in a fashion of kindness and pity."
When one gives charity out of a feeling of performing a mission, the act is one of joy and happiness.

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