Giving in the life cycle

The Parasha in the everyday life - Parashat Ki Tisa - Parah - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5780

What angle, and what kind of mental approach does one need to have to give of oneself to others and the community – when the person gives time and money, and even risks his life for the public?

Does he have to feel that he is 'beyond the strict requirements of the law' -Lifnim Mishurat HaDin- (Doing the Good and the Just) and deserves recognition? Or is he only doing the right thing (even if there are those who tend to ignore that obligation)?

What can be learned about this question from the Parasha?

As a Beit Midrash that deals with giving to the public and educates in that direction, it is important for us to find out.

The Parasha opens with an order to give Half a Shekel to count the people of Israel:

כִּ֣י תִשָּׂ֞א אֶת־רֹ֥אשׁ בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֘ל לִפְקֻדֵיהֶם֒ וְנָ֨תְנ֜וּ אִ֣ישׁ כֹּ֧פֶר נַפְשׁ֛וֹ לַה' בִּפְקֹ֣ד אֹתָ֑ם...

"When you take a census of the Israelite people according to their enrollment, each shall pay Hashem a ransom for himself on being enrolled…" (Shmot 30:12).

This kind of giving is one of the three implicit “contributions” in our Parasha:

אַחַת תְּרוּמַת אֲדָנִים שֶׁמְּנָאָן כְּשֶׁהִתְחִילוּ בְנִדְבַת הַמִּשְׁכָּן, שֶׁנָּתְנוּ כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מַחֲצִית הַשֶּׁקֶל… וּמֵהֶם נַעֲשׂוּ הָאֲדָנִים…  וְהַשֵּׁנִית אַף הִיא עַל יְדֵי מִנְיָן, שֶׁמְּנָאָן מִשֶּׁהוּקַם הַמִּשְׁכָּן, הוּא הַמִּנְיָן הָאָמוּר בִּתְחִלַּת חֻמַּשׁ הַפְּקוּדִים … וְנָתְנוּ כָּל אֶחָד מַחֲצִית הַשֶּׁקֶל, וְהֵן לִקְנוֹת מֵהֶן קָרְבְּנוֹת צִבּוּר שֶׁל כָּל שָׁנָה וְשָׁנָה, וְהֻשְׁווּ בָהֶם עֲנִיִּים וַעֲשִׁירִים, וְעַל אוֹתָהּ תְּרוּמָה נֶאֱמַר לְכַפֵּר עַל נַפְשׁוֹתֵיכֶם, שֶׁהַקָּרְבָּנוֹת לְכַפָּרָה הֵם בָּאִים; וְהַשְּׁלִישִׁית הִיא תְרוּמַת הַמִּשְׁכָּן … וְלֹא הָיְתָה יַד כֻּלָּם שָׁוָה בָהּ אֶלָּא אִישׁ מַה שֶּׁנְּדָבוֹ לִבּוֹ:

“Scripture alludes here to three different heave offerings since it uses the expression תרומת ה׳ three times: One mention is an allusion to the heave offering that was to be used for the making of the sockets, for he (Moshe) counted them when they began to contribute towards the building of the Tabernacle, when each gave half a shekel... The second heave offering was also levied by way of census, for he numbered them again after the Tabernacle was erected; that is the census referred to in the beginning of the Book of Bamidvar…and on that occasion, too, each of them gave half a shekel. These were employed in purchasing the communal sacrifices for each year. Rich and poor were made alike in regard to these half shekels; and it is with reference to this heave offering that Scripture uses here the expression לכפר על נפשתיכם, “to make expiation for your souls”, for sacrifices were brought in order to make atonement. The third heave offering was that offered for the building of the Tabernacle. In this heave offering, however, they did not all participate alike, but each one brought whatever his heart prompted him to give (Rashi on Shmot 30:15).

The contribution in our Parasha is the "half shekel" we were ordered to pass on to the next generations and from which they would make public sacrifices. The rich and the poor owe the same way. Every year they would start collecting on the 15th of Adar, and on the 25th they even enforced those who did not give:

בַּחֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר בּוֹ יָשְׁבוּ הַשֻּׁלְחָנִים בְּכָל מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה וְתוֹבְעִין בְּנַחַת כָּל מִי שֶׁיִּתֵּן לָהֶם יְקַבְּלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ וּמִי שֶׁלֹּא נָתַן אֵין כּוֹפִין אוֹתוֹ לִתֵּן. בַּחֲמִשָּׁה וְעֶשְׂרִים בּוֹ יָשְׁבוּ בַּמִּקְדָּשׁ לִגְבּוֹת. וּמִכָּאן וְאֵילָךְ כּוֹפִין אֶת מִי שֶׁלֹּא נָתַן עַד שֶׁיִּתֵּן. וְכָל מִי שֶׁלֹּא יִתֵּן מְמַשְׁכְּנִין אוֹתוֹ וְלוֹקְחִין עֲבוֹטוֹ בַּעַל כָּרְחוֹ וַאֲפִלּוּ כְּסוּתוֹ:…”

“On the fifteenth of Adar, the money-changers sit down in each town and gently request everyone to pay. They accept from everyone who offers them the half-shekel, without using compulsion against anyone who does not. On the twenty-fifth of Adar, they sit down in the Temple to enforce collection. From then on, payment is obtained by force from those who have not yet paid. Anyone who refuses to pay is subjected to compulsion by levy; a pledge is taken from him forcibly, even the garment he is wearing”. (Mishneh Torah Shekel Dues 1:9)

Why is the "half shekel" called a "donation" if we force the people to pay it?

A similar principle is found in the commandments of charity:

מי שאינו רוצה ליתן צדקה או שיתן מעט ממה שראוי לו בית דין כופין אותו ומכין אותן מכת מרדות עד שיתן מה שאמדוהו ליתן ויורדין לנכסיו בפניו ולוקחין ממנו מה שראוי לו ליתן וממשכנין על הצדקה…

“In the case of one who does not want to give tzedakah or who gives less than he should, a court should beat him with blows of chastisement until he gives what they estimate he should. They should bring down his money in front of his face and take from him what he should have given, and they may pawn his property for tzedakah…” (Mishneh Torah Gifts to the Poor 7:10).

Here too, the question is raised as apparently, the moral value of charity is that it comes from free choice, goodwill, and generosity of heart, and if forced upon, doesn’t it lose its value? Can it still be called 'charity’?!

Apart from giving charity with money, there are other types of giving, which are taught by Abraham Avinu:

ויש שלושה מיני נדיבות: האחד נדיב בממון, השני נדיב בגוף, השלישי נדיב בחכמה. ואלו השלושה היו באברהם אבינו: שהיה נדיב בממון, דכתיב (בראשית כא לג): "ויטע אשל". נדיב בגופו, שהציל לוט בן אחיו ונלחם עבורו. נדיב בחכמתו, כי לימד לכל העם הדרך הישר עד שנתגיירו …".

“There are three kinds of generosity: generosity with money, generosity with one's body, and generosity with one's wisdom — and all three were found in Abraham, our father. He was generous with his money, as it is written, "And he planted a tamarisk" (Bereshit 21:33). He was generous with his body, for he saved his nephew, Lot, and fought for his sake. He was generous in his wisdom, for he taught everyone the right path until they became converted… (Orchot Tzadikim17:3).

The Torah has a unique approach about giving and contributing to the public. It is not merely an altruistic act, but one of the duties of a person, who is an integral part of the public, and therefore the public can enforce it:

…כך קורא אפלטון את ההוצאה לפי החק השתתפות החלק בכל ומשעה שהיחיד מתעלם מהיותו חלק בכל זאת אומרת מחובתו לעבד למען תקון הצבור שהוא חלק ממנו ומחליט לחסך תועלתו לו לעצמו חוטא הוא לכלל וביותר לנפשו כי היחיד בקרב הצבור הוא כאבר יחיד בכללות הגוף שכן אלו היתה הזרוע מונעת את דמה בשעה שיש צרך בהקזתו היה הגוף כלה והזרוע כלה עמו אכן ראוי לו ליחיד לסבל אף את מר המות למען הצלת הכלל אך לפחות צריך היחיד לחשב על חלקו בכלל למען יתן תמיד חלקו ולא יתעלם ממנו אולם הואיל ודבר זה אין ללמדו מן ההקש קבע האלוה את כל דיניו המעשרות והמתנות והקרבנות ודומיהם הם חלק הכלל בקנינים…

“In a similar manner, Plato styles that which is expended on behalf of the law, 'the portion of the whole.' If the individual, however, neglects this 'portion of the whole' which is the basis of the welfare of the commonwealth of which he forms a part, in the belief that he does better in spending it on himself, sins against the commonwealth, and more against himself. For the relation of the individual is as the relation of the single limb to the body. Should the arm, in case bleeding is required, refuse its blood, the whole body, the arm included, would suffer. It is, however, the duty of the individual to bear hardships, or even death, for the sake of the welfare of the commonwealth. He must particularly be careful to contribute his 'portion of the whole,' without fail. Since ordinary speculation did not institute this, G-d prescribed it in tithes, gifts, and offerings, etc., as a 'portion of the whole' of worldly property…” (Sefer Kuzari 3:19)

The mind of the donor and the charitable person should be that he is not 'well-off' to give up his own, but that he is doing his duty!

The blessings and livelihood were given to him from heaven, and in these, he was given a certain percentage intended for the public or those in need! This consciousness should be based on the fact that:

יוֹתֵר מִמַּה שֶּׁבַּעַל הַבַּיִת עוֹשֶׂה עִם הֶעָנִי, הֶעָנִי עוֹשֶׂה עִם בַּעַל הַבַּיִת

"more than what the master of the house does with the poor man, the poor man does with the master of the house" (Vayikra Rabbah 34:8).

The poor 'derives advantage' with the donor by allowing him to give and fulfill his dues.

The mere act of giving is an uplifting feeling for the giver. And even more, the Sages teach us that Hashem sends a needy man to those He loves, to ask for charity - to merit them the gift of giving:

בְּשַׁעֲתָא דְּקוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא רָחִים לֵיהּ לְבַּר נָשׁ, מְשַׁדֵּר לֵיהּ דּוֹרוֹנָא, וּמַאן אִיהוּ, מִסְּכֵּנָא, בְּגִין דְּיִזְכֵּי בֵּיהּ. וְכֵיוָן דְּזָכֵי בֵּיהּ…

“Sending him a gift, a person in need whose support grants him” (Zohar 1:104a)

From the Parasha we have learnt that there is a basic commitment from the person to the public, (half a Shekel) and this fulfills this commitment.

Only those who would like to give beyond this commitment - in the sense of אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ לִבּ֔וֹ “whose heart so moves him” is worthy of special recognition.

Giving and donating is an integral part of Torah life in the world of action. Dedicating the time and resources for giving to the public and those in need is a 'privilege' and commitment that uplifts our lives.

Don't have an account yet? Register Now!

Sign in to your account