Tzedaka and Being Poor


By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld

The posuk in this week’s Parsha teaches us that one should not be poor, as it says, “Efes… bicha evyon.” The Gemara in Shabbos daf kuf nun alef, amud bais says that Rav Yosef used to say that a young rabbi does not become poor. The Gemara questions this since we see plenty of rabbanim that are poor. The Gemara responds that they may be poor, but they don’t go around collecting tzedaka.

The Chasam Sofer says a rule regarding the above Gemara concerning poverty and prosperity. He explains that the Gemara says that a Talmid Chacham is not poor because he does not consider himself poor since he is happy with his lot in life. The Gemara in Brachos, daf yud zayin, amud bais says that Reb Chanina ben Dosa had a “kav” of carob and it was sufficient for him. If a person is happy with whatever he has, as little as it is, he won’t feel the need to go collecting money. With this yesod we can understand and reconcile the following two pesukim. On one hand, it says in the posuk that there will never be a time where there won’t be poor people. On the other hand, there is a command that there should not be a poor person among you. The answer to this is that of course there are poor people, but the people themselves don’t consider themselves poor hence the stress on the word “you” in the posuk that a talmid chacham will never feel poor and be happy with what he has and therefore not go around collecting tzedaka.

The Ohev Yisroel explains the posuk in Hoshea, Perek Yud, posuk yud bais where the posuk says that we should plant tzedaka. What connection does planting have with tzedaka? He answers by describing a person who takes good fruits and good seeds and plants it in the ground where it rots. Eventually it comes out bigger and better and produces much more fruit. No one would complain to the farmer and say, “Why are you ruining good fruit by putting it in the ground?” The farmer has “emunah” that the fruit will grow and be plentiful. A person has to look at tzedaka the same way. A person receives money from Hashem and invests it. He plants it by giving tzedakaHashem then helps him and the money grows exponentially much more.

This is how the Tiferes Yechezkel explains the posuk in this week’s Parsha, Perek Yud Daled, posuk chof bais, “Give maaser of all your grain that grows year in and year out.” Give money to tzedaka and don’t worry that you are losing money. The same way you don’t worry about losing when you plant, but to the contrary you are really gaining, so too you are gaining by giving tzedaka!

Let us all be happy with our lot and be able to give to others and not have to take from others.

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