GOOD MORNING!  In my thirties (yes, a long time ago) I volunteered as a chaplain for the local Miami Beach based Boy Scout troop. Six or seven times a year, we would camp for a few days in campsites throughout the state. These camping excursions took us to some of the most remote parts of Florida.

Invariably, whenever we would get to a new locale, I would try to track down fellow "landsmen" and see if there was some type of Jewish connection. I quickly learned that a good way to figure out if there was a local Jewish population was to look at the donor board of local hospitals, museums, and other community organizations.

This should not be surprising. Our sages teach that one of the characteristics of a Jew is kindheartedness. In fact, according to the Talmud this is something that is in our very DNA - something we inherited from our forefather Abraham: "Anyone that is kindhearted towards his fellow man is certainly of the children of Abraham" (Talmud Beitzah 32b). Furthermore, Maimonides declared that arrogant, cruel, misanthropic, and unloving people could be suspected of not being true Jews (Yad, Issurei Bi'ah, 19:17).

Clearly, building communal infrastructure is part of the Jewish psyche. It should therefore come as no surprise that one of the first projects that the Jewish nation embarks upon after receiving the Torah is that of building the tabernacle - a home for the presence of the Almighty within the Jewish encampment.

Thus, this week's Torah reading contains the Jewish people's very first capital campaign, and everyone was asked to contribute. Interestingly enough, the twelve heads of the tribes offered to deficit fund the project; that is, whatever wasn't raised they would contribute from their own pockets.

Our rabbis teach us that the entire amount needed was raised within two days - perhaps the shortest capital campaign in history. The heads of the tribes, who had offered to deficit fund the project, were left with nothing to donate and merely made a token contribution.

Perhaps the most kindhearted person I had ever met, my beloved friend and mentor Rabbi Kalman Packouz of blessed memory, was a paragon of this very virtue that defines us as Jews. I therefore quote from a previous Shabbat Shalom Fax, authored by him, on the concept of charity.

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A person once asked his rabbi, "If one has $100 dollars to give, is it better to give $1 to 100 people or $100 dollars to one person for whom you can make a real difference?" The rabbi answered with profound wisdom: "Give $1 to 100 people. Then when the 101st person asks you for help, you'll feel for his situation and look for ways to help him. If you give $100 to one person, for the next 99 people who ask for assistance, you'll be defending yourself that you're already a good person because you gave to one person and made a difference. It will make you a hard person." What kind of person do you want to be?

Do you want to be a compassionate person or a hard person? Do you want to be a giver or a taker? Part of the decision is determining what kind of example you wish to be for your children. When you focus on the kind of person you wish to be, then you will be able to formulate an approach to tzedakah to get you there.

My friend wanted to be a giver and he wanted to train his children to be givers and compassionate toward others. He and his wife set out to make their home a place where people would feel welcomed and receive something both monetarily and on a personal level.

When the doorbell rings, he quickly goes to the door, greets the itinerant fundraisers with a warm smile and invites them to enter. He then asks them, "Would you like something to eat or drink? Would you like to use the bathroom?" If they would like something to eat or drink, he calls to one of his children, "We have a guest!" The children come and ask what they can get them to drink and if they'd like ice in their drink.

There is a local organization that vets the information of those who wish to go from home to home raising funds or collecting tzedakah. It checks with the institution the person purports to represent - or if for personal need, checks out his bona fides - and then issues a certificate validating the individual. My friend asks for the certificate and if all is in order writes a check and tries to give them more than they were expecting so that they should feel good about themselves - he then makes sure to escort him when the person leaves his home.

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The above was taken from a prior edition of the Shabbat Shalom Fax written by Rabbi Kalman Packouz. Now that he has passed, I can reveal to you that I personally know who his "friend" was; it was Rav Kalman himself! In addition, I remember him remarking that in the previous year he had written out over five hundred checks to those who came to him seeking help.

The Hebrew language is a holy one. Hebrew words don't merely refer to things or concepts; they define them. In Hebrew, the word for charity is "tzedakah" and best translates as "righteousness" or "justice." It differs from charity, which is defined as "an act of generosity or giving aid to the poor." Thus, in Judaism it is not merely a charitable act to give to the poor; it is the very obligation to be righteous person. The late Kirk Douglas once put it well when he said, "Tzedakah is not just a good thing; it's the right thing!"

The mitzvah of tzedakah does not only apply to helping just the poor. Whenever one fills a need of others - even the wealthy - through money, food, or comforting words, he fulfills this mitzvah!

 

Torah Portion of the Week

Terumah, Exodus 25:1 - 27:19

This week's Torah reading is an architect's or interior designer's dream portion. It begins with the Almighty commanding Moses to tell the Jewish people to donate the materials necessary for the construction of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary.

The Torah continues with the details for constructing the Ark, the Table, the Menorah, the Tabernacle (the central area of worship containing the Ark, the Menorah, the Incense Altar, and the Table), the Beams composing the walls of the Tabernacle, the Cloth partition (separating the Holy of Holies where the Ark rested from the remaining Sanctuary part of the Tabernacle), the Altar and the Enclosure for the Tabernacle (surrounding curtains forming a rectangle within which was approximately 15x larger than the Tabernacle).

 

Candle Lighting Times

February 28
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)

Jerusalem 5:00
Guatemala 5:51 - Hong Kong 6:09 - Honolulu 6:17
J'Burg 6:21 - London 5:22 - Los Angeles 5:30
Melbourne 7:44 - Mexico City 6;23 - Miami 6:03 - Moscow 5:42
New York 5:27 - Singapore 7:01 - Toronto 5:46


Quote of the Week

If you haven't any charity in your heart,
you have the worst kind of heart trouble.
--  Bob Hope

 

 

In Loving Memory of

Dr. David Russin

 

In loving memory of
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
Kalman Moshe ben Reuven Avigdor
1950-2019

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yitzchak Zweig

Copyright © 2020 Rabbi Yitzchak Zweig