Sunday, 2 November 2008

Why and How Should We Give To Help Our Fellow Jew

When someone asks us for tzeddakah or to help a fellow Jew, it is easy to ask: "why should I?" It is easy to judge the other and refuse to give. How often do we stop to consider what we gain by giving?

Rabbi Yitzhak in Bava Basra 9b taught: "One who gives a coin to a poor man is rewarded with six blessings... but if he cheers him with words of encouragement, he receives eleven blessings. And Rambam rules that it is a greater act of consideration when you tell him you are giving it to him because you want to cheer him and make him happy. To carry this idea further: it is undoubtedly a greater and deeper love which moves a person to declare his love to his beloved."

Rav Avraham Mordechai the third Gerer Rebbe provides an inspiring example of loving and caring for ones fellow Jew. The story is told that on one occasion, someone traveled by train from Warsaw to Ger. On his journey, his suitcase containing his tallis and tefillin was stolen.

On arrival in Ger, the man poured out his heart to the Rebbe. Upon hearing what had happened, Rav Avraham Mordechai consoled the man and said he could have the pair of tefillin that he, the rebbe, had inherited from his saintly father (the Sfas Emes), which he in turn had been given on occasion of his Bar Mitzvah by his grandfather the Chiddushei HaRim.

The man was nervous to receive such holy tefillin, to which the rebbe quickly had a response. He recommended that the man take the tefillin to his son-in-law Rabbi Yitzhak Meir Alter to exchange them for another pair.

During this conversation, one of the Rebbe's brothers was present. At the end of this exchange, his brother turned to Rav Avraham Mordechai and asked how he could give away the tefillin from their holy father so easily. To this the Rebbe explained that the Rambam teaches us: "If one gives something to a poor man, it should be the finest thing in one's possession. He who wishes to refine himself should suppress his Evil Inclination and act generously, by bringing as his sacrifice the best and finest of whatever commodity he is offering ... In the same way, if he is clothing a naked poor person, he should give him the best of his clothing .... As it says, all the fat (of the sacrifice) is for G-d" (Vayikra 3:16, Rambam Hilchos Issurei Mizbeach 7:11)

The seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that the giving of tzeddakah and spreading acts of goodness and kindness will hasten the Coming of the Moshiach. As we draw closer to the Final Redemption, may we all increase in our acts of goodness and kindness. May we give in the most beautiful manner with a smile and with loving care and the utmost consideration for our fellow Jew.

In this manner may we be zocher to greet the Moshiach even today, without any further delay!

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