Thursday, August 5, 2010

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Re’eh 5770

שבת טעם החיים ראה תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Re’eh 5770

Charity for all the right reasons

עשר תעשר את כל תבואת זרעך היוצא השדה שנה שנה, you shall tithe the entire crop of your planting, the produce of your field, year by year. (Devarim 14:22)
In this week’s parasha it is said (Devarim 14:22) aseir tiaseir eis kol tivuas zarecha hayotzei hasadeh shanah shanah, you shall tithe the entire crop of your planting, the produce of your field, year by year. The Gemara (Taanis 9a) interprets the repetition of the words aseir tiaseir, you shall tithe, to mean that if one gives tithes, he will become an ashir, a wealthy man. While the Gemara often expounds on repeated words in the Torah, here it appears that there is an inherent message in giving tithes that necessitated the teaching that giving tithes will cause one to be wealthy. What is the connection between giving tithes and becoming wealthy?
Give tithes or you are like Esav!
The Imrei Emes cites a Medrash that offers an alternative explanation of this verse. The Medrash states that one is required to give tithes, and if one does not give tithes, then his wealth will go to Esav, who is depicted as “the one who goes out to the fields.” What is the connection between one who does not give tithes and Esav?

It is noble for a Jew to give charity even with ulterior motives
In order to understand the insights of the Gemara and Medrash, it is worthwhile to reflect on the concept of giving tithes, which is essentially a form of charity. There is much confusion regarding charity, as it does not appear to be a particularly Jewish concept. Many non Jews give charity and there are even gentiles who have found that by tithing they have merited riches. What is unique about the mitzvah of Tzedakah that the Torah requires us to tithe? Regarding most mitzvos we are required to perform the mitzvah regardless of any fringe benefits involved. Concerning Tzedakah, however, the Gemara (Bava Basra 10b) states that one is permitted to test Hashem. This permit to test HaShem is extended to the point that one who declares that he will give this coin to charity in ruder that his son should live is considered to have given Tzedakah altruistically. According to one version of the Gemara, such a person is deemed to be completely righteous. One must wonder what is so noble about giving charity with ulterior motives. The answer to this question is that by contrast, we find that the Gemara (Ibid) states that the charity of the gentiles is always deemed to be flawed, as even their noble intentions are tainted with some ulterior motive. Thus, it follows that the converse is true. When a Jew gives charity, even if he does not have pure motives, it is considered as if his motives are completely untainted.
A Jew is considered to always give charity without ulterior motives
We can now understand why the Torah exhorts us to tithe so that we will become rich, and if we do not tithe, according to the Medrash, the tithes will go to Esav. When a Jew tithes, even with ulterior motives, he is testing HaShem in a permitted manner, and this will bring him blessing. However, if a Jew refuses to give charity, then he is akin to Esav, as a gentile, even if he gives charity without ulterior motives, is still deemed to have given charity for personal gain.
The Shabbos connection
Throughout the week we are influenced by the gentile world that makes it difficult to serve HaShem altruistically. Regarding Shabbos the Gemara (Shabbos 118a) states that one who delights in the Shabbos will receive a boundless heritage, which is referred to as nachalas Yaakov, the heritage of Yaakov. This indicates that on Shabbos we are protected from the outside world that is reflected in the tainted deeds of Esav, and we merit the purity of Yaakov, when we can serve Hashem altruistically and with a pure heart.
Shabbos Stories
The Donut Man
To witness it was so sad. Every day the elderly blind man would sit at the corner with pastries in his cart. As he waited there shivering, some cruel passerby would secretly sneak up to the tray, grab a donut and run away. A few moments later, another would do the same, and before long the blind beggar's tray would be empty.
The wagon drivers on their route would stop to purchase a bit of food, and the beggar would gladly attempt to hand them a pastry, happy to be finally earning some money. But alas the drivers would look at the tray and tell the old man that there was nothing left. The dispirited old man would shuffle back home, cold, broken and penniless.
This sad routine repeated itself over and over; several kind people offered to give the blind man some money to get by, but he was too proud and refused their handouts.
One day, all that changed.
The rabbi in Prague, Rabbi Yeshaya Muskat, was known for his warmth and concern. Passing by the pastry cart one day, he witnessed the thievery. He looked around and realized that while others were standing nearby and had likewise seen the wrongdoing, no one reacted. He succeeded in chasing one thief away, but Rabbi Yeshaya could not understand why no one had done anything to help the victim of the crime. He approached the blind old man and after some casual conversation paid him for a slice of cake and walked home.
The next morning Rabbi Yeshaya was at the street corner, bright and early, well before any of the sneaky thieves had a chance to pounce on their innocent prey. Rabbi Yeshaya informed his new friend that he had so enjoyed the cake that he wanted to purchase the entire tray. The surprised old man was thrilled to have succeeded in selling the whole tray of goodies before he even had a chance to become chilled. This routine repeated itself day after day, week after week. As for Rabbi Yeshaya, he would distribute the pastries to needy poor people throughout the city.
One of the people who noticed the charade approached Rabbi Yeshaya and asked him why he went through the trouble of walking through the cold, coming to the market every day early in the morning, and making the blind old man bring out his cart ― when it would have been much easier if he would just tell the man not to bother coming out, and send him the money every week.
Rabbi Yeshaya responded in a most sensitive manner... "It is bad enough that the man cannot see, but do I have to take away his remaining joy in living?"
Rabbi Yeshaya realized that when one does a kindness for another, it must be done with sensitivity, compassion and understanding. He knew that maintaining a person's dignity takes priority over other forms of kindness.
Rabbi Yeshaya continued this charade until the day came when the old man was no longer there. He had passed away the night before, certain that he was indeed a successful businessman, not just another beggar.
Eternal Lights
J.J. Gross works as an advertising executive at one of the top marketing agencies in the New York area. Among his many clients are some members of the Lubavitch community. One day an inspirational thought crossed J.J.'s mind. What if the most prestigious paper in the world, The New York Times, ran a ticker across the bottom of the front page every Friday ― listing candle lighting time? Who knows whom this tidbit of information might reach? Just imagine the possible effects!
The suggestion was proposed by J.J. to some of the more influential members within the Lubavitch organization, and before long a generous donation of $1,800 per week was proffered to sponsor the ticker.
There were times when the production manager of The Times would contact Mr. Gross at the eleventh hour, desperately trying to find out what time candle lighting was on that particular Friday evening. The man was of Irish Catholic descent and he was concerned that the paper would go to print before the time for candle lighting was listed!
From the mid-1990s until June 1999 the ticker ran each and every week across the bottom of the front page. But then the philanthropist who had been sponsoring the ad cut back on his pledges, the candle lighting ad among them... And that was the last time it appeared. Or so he thought.
For a special Millennium issue, The New York Times ran three different front pages. One was from January 1, 1900. The second was from January 1, 2000, and a third projected future events for the beginning of the 22nd century ― January 1, 2100. Among the news stories in this fictional issue was the establishment of the fifty-first state of the USA: Cuba. Another article covered the question of whether robots should be allowed to vote, and so on.
Although the candle lighting ticker did not appear in the other two front pages, surprisingly it did turn up on the front page of the January 1, 2100 Friday newspaper.
This odd inclusion piqued the curiosity of many individuals. When the production manager of The Times was questioned about the inclusion, his response was astounding. "We don't know what will happen in the year 2100. It is impossible to predict the future. But of one thing you can be certain ― that in the year 2100, Jewish women will be lighting Shabbos candles!"
The Baker’s Patience
In this time of turmoil in the Middle East, we can sometimes lose sight of the deep beauty that pervades the Jewish community in Israel. The following true story helps restore our perspective and illuminates the hope for a peaceful future.

My friend Yehudit P. was telling me about her pre-6:00 A.M. walks early Friday mornings. The quiet is thunderous, the whole atmosphere ethereal. And then, just as the owner is opening up his hole-in-the-wall pita-bread bakery store in the Bukharan market of Jerusalem, Yehudit arrives to buy freshly baked Syrian-style pita (made by throwing the dough against the inside of his hole-in-the-wall oven).
Over the months, Yehudit has come to be impressed by this chubby, bald, Syrian Jew's kindness. Which makes what he said to Yehudit one morning so understandable...
Yehudit had arrived a little late, and so she took her place in line, behind another woman buying pita.
This woman was an old, Bukharan woman, bent with age, wearing a floral-patterned babushka. She seemed to be very dissatisfied with the pita-bread that the Syrian-Jew was offering her.
"No, this one is burnt," she said, handing it back to the baker. "It's not good. I want a different one."
So the man gave her a different one.
After carefully examining it, the woman returned this one, too, commenting, "This one doesn't look well-done enough. Give me another..."
As Yehudit stood in the growing line, awaiting her turn, she marveled at the patience of this simple baker. For it seemed that each time the man handed the old woman a perfectly good, fresh, warm pita-bread, the old woman would carefully examine it, and then hand it back, with some complaint.
As the old woman returned yet another pita to the baker, he finally said to her a bit firmly, "It's okay, ma'am. This one is good. It's a very good one. It's fine, they're all fine."
Convinced, and wrapping her six large pita-breads in a small blanket to keep them warm, the little old lady finally walked away.
Turning to Yehudit, the baker apologized for the delay, and explained, "I feel bad that I got agitated with her. You see, she doesn't pay." (
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Re’eh 5770
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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