18 Tishrei 5782 / Friday, September 24, 2021 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
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The Illogical Chomesh    

The Illogical Chomesh

If 5000 shekels don’t cover all of one’s living expenses, then how can he expect to live on only 4000? That’s precisely the wisdom of the Torah and emuna…


The Garden of Riched, Part 25

You lack money – give to charity!
One must never say, "When I have money, lots of money, or at least enough to live on... then I will donate to charity. After all, how can I give a tithe or a fifth to charity when I am not even earning enough to make ends meet?"
In the Talmud a totally different argument is presented: "If a person sees that his income is decreasing, he should use his money to give charity" (Gittin 7). And of course, all the more so when one's income increases. If for example a person earns 5000 shekels a month, which is far less than what he needs to make ends meet, the advice is to give 1000 shekels (a chomesh, or fifth) to charity.
One may be bewildered by such advice. If a salary of 5000 shekels does not cover all his living expenses, how can he then be expected to live on only 4000? But the answer is that this is precisely the wisdom of the Torah and emuna.
If a person is earning less than what he needs, one can understand that Hashem is giving him his livelihood with strain and difficulty, according to strict judgment. If he would like Hashem to bless him with livelihood through compassion and mercy and not through judgment, he should donate money to charity, for this invokes Divine compassion. Hashem rules this world in a manner that the more one gives the more livelihood he will receive. Our sages say (tractate Shabbat, 151), "The more one takes pity upon others, so Heaven will take pity upon him."
"And strangers shall rise and tend your sheep…"
In Torah 4 of Likutei Moharan, Rebbe Nachman reveals the great implications of giving charity. He expounds that our physical needs are numerous – food, drink, a place to live, and so on - so it is therefore possible for a person to work all his days and years just to attain and maintain these bare necessities. He may find himself engaged most of his time with worries over attaining these things.
Surely Hashem can sustain the entire world without any effort on our part. After all, He created the world and all that is in it before He created man… and He Created it all in kindness, as King David says in the Psalms, "the world shall be built in kindness". 
So if Hashem created the entire world in His kindness without assistance from below, surely too He can sustain all the worlds through His kindness and has no need for our labors and efforts. Even things that are basic necessities could be done by others, as the prophet writes, (Isaiah 61:5), "And strangers shall rise and tend your sheep, and foreigners shall be your field and vineyard. And you shall be called the priests of the L-rd…"
Through overcoming our thoughtlessness and giving charity, we merit an abundance of Hashem's kindness, thus minimizing the need for our efforts. Even the basic labors could be done by others. Through charity, worries over our livelihood and the attainment of our physical needs become superfluous.
We may conclude that through donating to charity and by doing acts of kindness, Hashem rules His people with kindness and sustains them without any need for their labors and efforts.
Maybe a person will say, “My salary is not enough, how can I possibly give to others?”
The Heavens will then say, “Okay, if you enjoy thinking that you are taking care of your needs on your own, then continue doing so. So, if you are taking care of yourself, why should Hashem help you?” But, if on the other hand one gives charity despite his stressful financial situation, then Hashem will help him even if he is undeserving.
Since donating a chomesh to charity is not at all logical, it invokes blessings upon the giver that are way beyond that which is logical, natural, or anticipated. Two people can earn the exact same amount of money, but if only one of them donates a chomesh to charity, he will surely enjoy more blessings, prosperity and success.

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  2 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  Don't calculate the minimum
Brian Baruch4/2/2019 8:11:03 PM
  Question on the calculation of chomesh
Alice3/2/2015 4:33:48 PM

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