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Is it permissible to give charity? - Ree

Thursday, 29 August, 2019 - 10:30 am

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During the period of the Talmud, the roman governor Quintus Tineius Rufus, nicknamed by the Jews Turnus Rufus the Evil, asked Rabbi Akiva: “If G-d loves the poor, why doesn’t He support them?”. Rabbi Akiva answered: “In order for us to support them, and thus to be saved from hell”. Tsedaka (charity) saves us from death, both material and spiritual.

The roman governor asked again: “If the King gets angry with one of his slaves, puts him in jail and orders not to bring him any food, and a person nevertheless feeds him, is it not an act of rebellion against the King?” (The roman was likening the slave with the poor people to whom G-d does not give enough sustenance).  

Before reading the answer of Rabi Akiva, let’s understand better the roman’s question: he wanted to challenge him by telling him that giving charity does not fall in line with believing in G-d. If we believe that G-d governs everything in the world, everything exists for a reason including poverty.   

Rabbi Akiva answered: “You think that we are talking about a slave who got punished. But we are children of G-d. If the King (G-d), gets angry with his son and orders not to feed him, in a while, after he calms down, he will be delighted that someone took care of his child”.

This was Rabbi Akiva’s answer to the challenge, but the basic question remains: how does giving charity not contradict our belief that everything that G-d does has a purpose?

This week’s Parasha Ree is full of commandments about charity. It describes the various ways in which we need to help the poor and stresses that it must be done with a smile.

Tsedakah is part of the G-dly plan. G-d created the world imperfect, so that we can perfect it. The poor person must believe that everything comes from G-d. This is his challenge. But our mission in this case is to help whoever has a need and not to “justify” G-d’s plan.

Let’s help one another, let’s give Tsedakah (charity) and in this way fulfill our mission, make the world a better place.

Shabbat Shalom!

Hanna

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