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Do I Really Need To Give?

I work very hard for my money and I resent the fact that Jewish charities and organizations are constantly hounding me for donations. If I were wealthy, I could understand. But why are they bothering me?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The Midrash tells the following story:

There was once a man who owned a large farm. Every year he would harvest a successful crop from the fields, and he'd give the appropriate 10 percent of the harvest to charity.

When this man became older and was on his deathbed, he called his son, and said that he was bequeathing the farm in his son. He warned, "Be very careful to give 10 percent each year to charity." And with that, he died.

The next year, the field produced a large crop, and the son gave 10 percent to charity according to the Torah law and his father's warning. The following year there was also a large crop, and again the son gave away 10 percent. But he thought to himself, "Why am I giving so much of my produce to charity? What a waste!" So he made a resolution not to give charity the following year.

To the son's dismay, the following year's crop was 10 percent of its usual size -- a 90 percent loss!

When his relatives heard, they came to visit him. "We're sorry you lost most of your crop. But it's your own fault. In the beginning, as the owner of the field, you kept 90 percent for yourself and gave 10 percent away. But now that you have refused to give your tenth, God is the owner of the field -- taking 90 percent of the crop for Himself -- and you are the recipient of the 10 percent charity!"

Part of the lesson from this story is that our salary, even though we work very hard for it, is in reality a gift from God. Therefore it is fitting to follow God's instruction to give 10 percent of our earnings to people in need, based on Leviticus 25:35 and Deut. 15:7-8. This is called Ma'aser, literally "one tenth" (hence the English word "tithe"), and is one of the 613 mitzvahs.

Besides this, there is a wonderful feeling in helping to heal the world, and to partner with God and others in the jewish national goal of tikkun olam.

To learn more, read "Ma'aser Kesafim - Giving a Tenth to Charity" edited by Cyril Domb (Feldheim), and "Permission to Receive," by Lawrence Kellemen (Targum Press). See also: Code of Jewish Law - Y.D. 249:2; Igrot Moshe Y.D. 2:112; "Orchat Rabbeinu (Rabbi Y.Y. Kanievsky) 1:302.

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