Sign up to TorahFax


Monday, Iyar 12, 5784 / May 20, 2024 (27th day of the Omer)


This Shabbat we read Parshat Behar.  One of the mitzvot in the Parsha is to help someone in need.  The Torah says, "And if your brother becomes poor and his strength fails him, you shall support him, whether he is a stranger (a convert) or a sojourner, that he may live with you...


In Pirkei Avot our sages state about the mitzvah of Tzedakah (charity); "There are four types among those who give charity, 1) One who wishes to give but doesn't want others to give - he begrudges others; 2) He who encourages others to give but doesn't give himself  - he begrudges himself; 3) He who gives and wants others should give too, is a Chassid (generous person); 4) One who doesn't give and doesn't want others to give, is a wicked person."  The proper way to perform the mitzvah of Tzedakah is to give and encourage others to give too.


An important condition in the mitzvah of Tzedakah is to make sure that the person receiving the help should not feel embarrassed and inferior. For this reason, many people give Tzedakah anonymously.


The Talmud tells the following story.  Mar Ukva's neighbor was a poor person.  Each day, Mar Ukva threw the sum of four zuzim through a hole in his neighbor’s door so that he would not know his identity.


One day, Mar Ukva and his wife stopped by the neighbor's house to drop in the four zuzim.  But as they did, the man opened the door. Afraid that he would be embarrassed seeing them, they ran and hid in a large oven used for baking bread. The coals in the oven were still hot and Mar Ukva burnt his feet.  However, his wife's feet were not affected. She suggested that he place his feet on hers.


"We both give charity, so why is it that my feet burnt while yours didn't?" Mar Ukva asked his wife.


His wife replied: "The reason is that you perform the mitzvah of charity by giving money to the poor.  But they cannot benefit from this immediately because they must go and buy food.  I am in the house and when a poor person comes, I give them food which they eat right away and benefit immediately!"


The Talmud tells us that Mar Ukva's charity was legendary.  Every Erev Yom Kippur, he would send a poor person a certain amount of money.  Once, he sent the money with his son, but the boy returned with it. He told his father, "The person doesn't need your money!  When I came to his house, I saw him eating a festive meal and drinking good wine!"


"I didn't realize what this man's needs were," Mar Ukva said to his son.  "Obviously he needs more than what I gave him." Mar Ukva immediately doubled the amount and told his son to bring it to the person!


Before Mar Ukva passed away he asked that an accounting of all the money he distributed for charity be brought before him.  It amounted to a very large sum. Yet, Mar Ukva wasn't satisfied.  "I'm taking too little with me for such a long journey!" he stated.  He then took half of his possessions and distributed them to charity. Let’s perform an additional mitzvah and give extra charity for the merit of our captives!