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Cheshvan 24

What the recipient of alms does for the donor is greater than what the donor does for the recipient (Vayikra Rabbah 34:8).

Rabbi Yitzchok of Zidachov said, "Life consists of give and take. Everyone must be a giver and a receiver. Those who are not both are as a barren tree."

There is a charming Jewish custom: on Erev Yom Kippur or on Hoshana Rabbah, people ask or "beg" for cake from friends. The rationale is that just in case it was Divinely decreed for someone to be a beggar, the begging for cake will fulfill this decree, and so one would be free from such a fate.

Another important reason for this custom could be that giving is easy, because we can then feel magnanimous. Still, it is crucial that we also empathize with the person who needs assistance and realize how painful and degrading it is to beg and to depend on others. Only then will we be able to take into consideration the feelings of those who must ask for help and express our feelings by providing words of comfort and encouragement along with the material help. Lack of empathy when giving charity can lead to arrogance.

We must realize that in some ways we are all takers, for even in the very act of giving charity we take more than we give.

Today I shall...

try to identify with people who ask for help and avoid considering myself superior to those whom I offer help or give charity.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

May 21, 2009

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