Torah Insights for Shabbat
Acharon Shel Pesach 5758
April 18, 1998
How do we respond to these pleas? We train our children to put a coin every day, or before Shabbos, into the pushkah, but have we honestly developed a similar regimen for ourselves?
Three times a year, on the eighth day of Pesach, the second day of Shavuos, and Shemini Azteres, we read the same Torah portion--a discussion of the relationship one must have with the poor:
"If there shall be a destitute person among you, any of your brethren in any of your cities, in the land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you, you shall not harden your heart or close your hand to your destitute brother. Rather, you shall open your hand to him; you shall lend him his requirement, whatever is lacking to him."
The Torah is specific. One must override his natural inclination to deny or even limit the gift.
One of the first words in a young childs burgeoning vocabulary is "mine," and even as adults, we feel that we have labored long hours and endured tremendous hardships to feed, clothe, and educate our families. Confronted with a request for charity, we very often regress to this yelp from our childhood.
The Torah continues: "You shall surely give him, and let your heart not feel bad when you give him, for in return for this matter, Hashem your G-d will bless you in all your deeds and in your every undertaking."
"You shall surely give" signals Hashems awareness that it takes extra effort to overcome the disinclination to part with our possessions. Hashem also reminds us, with a double expression, that the reward is commensurate with the effort.
Repeating the words of Tehillim every day in our prayers, we beg Hashem for graciousness and generosity: "Open your hand, and satisfy the needs of every living creature."
It is ironic that while we have no qualms in beseeching Hashem for assistance, our spirituality often dissipates when the doorbell rings or the phone call beckons. For with a closed fist, one can neither give nor receive. If we dont give to our fellow man, we cut off our ability to receive from Hashem.
We read during the Torah portion on the eighth day of Pesach, that we "shall not appear before Hashem empty-handed--every one [must bring] according to what he can give, according to the blessing that Hashem your G-d gives you." We are reminded amid our own celebration, that if we have not provided for the poor among us, we are lacking.
Today, unfortunately, we are not privileged to live in a time where there is a Temple for us to travel to. We do not come to Jerusalem each year with our first fruits, our sacrifices, or our tithes. Nevertheless, we can open our hands and we can open our hearts.
Instead of feeling pinched or squeezed at the next request for charity, however inconvenient, let us try to reach a little deeper. For unlike other forms of exercise, this spiritual workout offers a maximum yield.
Rabbi David Hirsch
Rabbi Hirsch is rabbi of the Fleetwood Synagogue in Mount Vernon, New York.
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