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A good friend of mine is involved in collecting for the Kollels of Rav Ahron Leib Shteinman, one of the great gedolei hador. He shared the following story with me that he witnessed recently.
One of the other people involved in collecting for the kollel had been promised by a certain wealthy individual that he would receive a sum ranging around $100,000 the following week. When it came time for him to come through on his commitment, he told him that he had just lost $3 million and would not be able to give that money.
My friend was there when the news was broken to Rav Shteinman.
Reb Ahron Leib’s straightforward response was, “If he would donate the $100,000, he would not lose the $3 million.”
Living in a world of Western values, we naturally think that the one who makes the money gives the tzedakah. Our Torah teaches us the opposite. The one who gives Tzedakah makes the money.
This is the idea of עשר בשביל שתתעשר – give off a tenth to become rich. We think this is a quaint saying our Chazal are telling us. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This statement is actually a rule that is hardwired into reality. Those who are givers (or more accurately sharers) will find that Hashem pours out his beracha upon them, because the truth is that Hashem is always waiting to give His blessings to His people, and those who use their money correctly and truly give to the best of their ability become conduits for Hashem’s Shefa into the world, and they themselves benefit as well.
In my neighborhood, as may be the case in yours, when someone is blessed with a child, the gears go into motion and the chessed pours out from every side. People are there to help in any way they can, from helping prepare for a simcha to cooking meals nightly.
Chessed and tzedakah go hand in hand and are the things that bring Hashem’s blessings into our lives because we are bringing the blessings into others’ lives. If we know someone who is suffering financially, we can help. We can offer to watch their kids or we can surprise them with a meal, or even create a schedule with others to help them on a regular basis. The brotherhood that can be advanced in difficult times can be the zechus to get us out of the difficult times.
A wonderful way to become more aware in this area is to learn the Chofetz Chaim’s sefer Ahavas Chessed. If audio works better for you, you can find a number of five minute audio shiurim that I have recorded based on Ahavas Chessed on my website in the section entitled the Daily Dvar.
Now is the time to strengthen our resolve in this area, to dedicate ourselves to raise our level of giving. If we have not been careful until now with our maaser, let us take off our maaser as soon as we make the money. If we have given less than ten percent until now, let us make sure to give ten percent. It may be possible to look inside oneself and see that the bar could be raised and even twenty percent could be given. הבא לטהר מסייעין אותו – one who comes to purify himself is aided from Heaven.
I once asked Rav Sheinberg about how much one should give to tzedakah, and he emphatically said that every penny given to tzedakah comes right back. The more you give the more you get!
איש את רעהו יעזורו ולאחיו יאמר חזק – each man will strengthen his fellow, and say to him, “Be strong!”