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Tuesday, Elul 14, 5770 / August 24, 2010
One cannot stress enough the importance of giving charity (tzedakah) before the High Holidays. As great and important as the mitzvah of charity is all year round, it is much more important and effective at this time, before the New Year.
The Torah tells us that G-d’s reward and punishment system is measure for measure. G-d’s actions are like a mirror; what we do for Him and for others is what He does to and for us.
King David in Psalms says, “G-d is your shadow.” Our sages explain this to mean that just as the movements of a person’s shadow are exactly as the movements of the person, so too, G-d is like our shadow. His doings are according to ours; whatever we do affects what He does.
At this time of the year, as we prepare for the High Holidays, when we will gather in synagogue and pray that G-d grant us whatever we need for the New Year, it is of utmost importance that we too, look after the needs of others. According to Jewish law we should give more charity before Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
In the Selichot services, which are recited before Rosh Hashana, we say, “To You, G-d is tzedakah-charity and to us is the embarrassment.”
Just like a poor person, who approaches a wealthy person for alms, so too, when we come before G-d at this time of the year and ask for G-d’s charity and benevolence, we come like the poor man, with some embarrassment.   Whatever G-d gives us is really a form of charity from Him to us. After all, can we demand from G-d saying, “We have done everything You asked us to do and we deserve whatever we ask for?” 
We ask G-d to grant us good health and inscribe us for good life and prosperity, because He is merciful, even if we don’t exactly deserve it. We ask G-d to be charitable and give us what we need for the New Year.
Because G-d’s actions mirror ours, we too, especially at this time, must be charitable and help those who need help.
This week’s Parasha is Ki Tavo. The Parasha begins with the mitzvah of Bikurim. G-d commands that the first ripe fruits of the seven kinds with which the Holy Land is praised, should be brought to the Kohen – the priest in the Holy Temple.   The Torah teaches us that when we give G-d His share, which is through the giving of Tzedakah, charity, we should give the first fruits and the best.   Before we take for ourselves what we need, we have to give G-d what is His. This invokes G-d’s mercy upon us and He too, in return, gives us the first and the best of whatever we need.  
Q.   How does dipping the challah and apple in honey, Rosh Hashana night, express our wish to evoke G-d’s mercy?
A.   Honey in Hebrew is “dvash.” The numerical value of dvash is 306 (4+2+300=306), which is the same numerical value as the words Av HaRachamim (1+2+5+200+8+40+10+40=306), which means "Merciful Father."