This week, the theme of charity has come up multiple times.
I had one person ask me, “I have given away so much money, and the Torah says God will reimburse me and reward me, so how is it that I’m struggling financially?”
Separately, my dear friend asked, with all the suffering, homelessness, poverty, etc., how do we choose when to say yes and when to say no? How much is enough and how much is too much?
Lastly, my personal question is: if God is omnipotent, then how is it that so many are suffering? Can’t God come to our rescue just a bit?!
I would like to address each question, starting with the last one, which I believe will answer numbers two and three.
The Torah commands us to give 10 percent of our income and not greater than 20 percent. Now, if you have more than you will ever need, please consult with your Rabbi as to how much you can give, and additionally this is from income, not assets, and this is during your lifetime—not after death, etc.
With all that being said, I truly believe in my heart of hearts and deep in my soul that if we each gave 10 percent of our income to the needy and to the infirm, we wouldn’t have needy and infirm. In truth, it’s not God that must come to the rescue, it’s us. God has already set up the solution through tithing, it’s us that aren’t fulfilling our part of the bargain.
This commandment of giving up to 20% answers question number 2 as to how much, now to the question of to whom and where. My personal bias is that this money goes toward basic needs first: shelter, food, clothing, healthcare, etc. Yet I would suggest asking yourself what your priorities are and give charity to that cause. Just make sure the majority of the funds are going to the cause and not the overhead.
Now to the last question. Even in the observance of God–or shall I say, sometimes especially in the observance—we are naive and misguided. Don’t jump off a bridge and ask where God was. That’s on you; you shouldn’t have jumped off the bridge. That’s all to say, don’t act irresponsibly and expect to be bailed out. Act responsibly and then remember that it’s in God’s hands and God can help even if there is a gun to our head. Don’t give up hope unless you are the one putting the gun to your head, and if you are, just put it down. The key to life is balance, and if you are going to overdo it, don’t expect God to save you from the consequences.
Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love
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