9 Tamuz 5781 / Saturday, June 19, 2021 | Torah Reading: Chukat
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The Big Forfeit    

The Big Forfeit

Naval the Carmelite was a wealthy person who refused to give King David’s soldiers bread and water. Ultimately, Naval lost everything, his life and his wife…


The Garden of Riches, Part 27

The upright needy
Giving charity helps rectify flaws in personal holiness and enhances personal holiness. This rectification is made possible by giving to the upright needy who themselves do upright deeds. One must be careful to donate money to reliable Torah institutions that will use the money to help support Torah scholars and spread Torah learning and emuna in the world. Finding such Torah institutions is not always easy, especially when it comes to the spreading of Torah and emuna in the world. We must be courageous enough to overcome the obstacles that we meet on the way to performing mitzvoth; the greater the mitzvah, the greater the difficulty encountered. Therefore, one must pray for the privilege of giving charity to truly worthy and decent individuals or institutions.
Is a person in debt obligated to give charity?
A philanthropist who had fallen into debt once asked me: “Is it fair of me to donate chomesh to charity, when on the other hand I owe people money?”
I replied with a question: "Do you live in absolute deprivation, giving everything you have to pay back your debts? Is it true that you don't buy anything for yourself or your family beyond your barest necessities? Is all your money given directly to pay back your debts?"
He admitted that he was still living as he had lived before, buying whatever his wife and children asked for, eating well, dressing in fashion, and driving a new car…
"If so," I replied, "give to charity too! If you continue to fulfill your own material desires as before, then why should you act differently in regard to charity? If you continue to spend money on things other than your very basic necessities, why is your ‘responsible’ behavior limited only to the charity money?”
If, truthfully, you tell yourself that you have no right to buy a new suit or eat in a restaurant when you owe others money, then you can act in the same manner regarding your giving to charity. Don’t place greater limitations on charity than you would for personal indulgence.
Lack of wealth and lack of compassion
A person may fail to attain wealth because he lacks pity on his fellow man. There are times when a person will become wealthy, and assume that his money is his, forgetting that everything is a gift and deposit for safe-keeping from Hashem. When Hashem gives a person wealth, He wants to see what that person will choose to do with this gift: will he give generously to others or will he become insensitive and miserly, falsely believing that his wealth is a consequence only of his own efforts and accomplishments?
If one chooses to give to others, to share his wealth and give to charity foundations, then he is being faithful to Hashem; he will surely enjoy continued wealth. If on the other hand he chooses to be cruel instead of showing compassion and generosity, he obviously believes all this wealth is of his own doing. In the latter case, he’ll ultimately forfeit his wealth and the money will be transferred to someone more deserving.
A classic example of the above phenomenon appears in Chapter 25 of Samuel I. Naval the Carmelite was a fabulously wealthy person who refused to provide King David’s hungry soldiers with food and water. Ultimately, Naval died and not only his wealth, but his beautiful wife Avigail, were transferred to King David.
The Torah (Exodus 22:27) says, "If you lend money to My people." The Ohr HaChayim asks why the Torah uses the word "if", suggesting only the possibility and not the certainty of giving money to others. He comments that there are times when we see a certain individual seems to be a great deal wealthier than necessary. This causes us to wonder why he has been given so much wealth, why he has received so much more than what our patriarch Yaakov asked for, "… bread to eat and a garment to wear" (Genesis 28:20).
No one is given wealth just to squander it. If a person is blessed with assets that go beyond his needs, this is money given to him in trust to be used for charitable purposes.
"If you lend money to My people, to the poor person [who is] with you, you shall not behave toward him as a lender." (Exodus, 22:27). King Solomon said (Ecclesiastes 5:12-13): "There is a grievous evil that I saw under the sun; riches kept by their owner for his harm. And those riches are lost through an evil design.” The Almighty tests the wealthy, to see if they will open their hands to the less fortunate. They are rewarded in the world to come, for the prophet says, “And your righteousness shall go before you” (Isaiah, 58:8). The poor are also being tested, if they will spurn this earthly world.
Even a person with a moderate income is being tested. Hashem wants to see if those who earn only a modest income will assist others, even when they themselves are limited in their funds. If they meet the test and merit giving to charity, Hashem will reward them. Rabbi Tanchum says that he who does not have assets and in spite of that gives to charity, Hashem will sustain and reward him.

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