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Thursday, Elul 21, 5783 (Hakhel Year) / September 7, 2023


During this month, Elul, the last month of the year, it is customary to be more generous and distribute more charity than usual. Through our acts of kindness and mercy we invoke G-d’s kindness and mercy upon us for the coming year to be blessed with whatever we need.


It is worthwhile repeating the story about one of the great Talmudic sages, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. This story illustrates that whatever is destined for charity is of no use to try to keep it.


One Rosh Hashana night, the Talmudic Sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, had a dream.  In the dream, he saw that his nephews would have to pay 600 golden dinars to the tax collectors. Rabbi Shimon, wanting to save them this aggravation, sent charity collectors to ask his nephews for more charity than in other years.


"Why do you want us to give more charity this year than usual?" They questioned their uncle.


"If one doesn't give willingly to the right causes, he ends up having to give forcibly for the wrong things," Rabbi Shimon answered.


At the end of the year, a special military tax was imposed on the people of that city. Rabbi Shimon's nephews, being wealthy people, were assessed 600 golden dinars.  When they refused to pay this large amount, they were thrown in jail.


Rabbi Shimon heard what happened. He ordered that his nephews' records of charitable donations be brought to him. Upon calculating how much charity they gave, he realized that they were 6 dinars short of the sum of 600. "Bring me six dinars," said Rabbi Shimon. "With G-d's help, everything will be ok."


"But they want 600 dinars!  What good will six dinars do?" Rabbi Shimon urged them to do as he said. They brought him the six dinars.


With the six dinars in his hand, he went to the tax collector and succeeded in persuading him to take the six dinars and free his nephews.  


Only then did Rabbi Shimon tell his relatives of his Rosh Hashana dream.  "Had you given the full 600 dinars for charity, you wouldn't have had to go through all this misery," Rabbi Shimon told them.


"If you knew this all along, why didn't you tell us?  We would have gladly given 600 dinars for charity!" they complained.


"Had I told you about my dream in the beginning of the year, all the charity you gave during the year would have been for selfish reasons. In that case, the mitzvah wouldn't have been performed to its fullest," answered Rabbi Shimon.