Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Give A Little Tzedaka

In a recent post by Moshe, there was discussion of the mindset of those who feel the right way of life is to learn all day and that those who work and learn some of the day, or only an hour a day, are "sub-par." In the comments section, there were a few comments made about giving tzedaka to those who are in need because they don't work for a living vs. those who are in need because they're really in need. It got me thinking. So often in the mail, we get requests for tzedaka for various Chareidi Yeshivot. Understandably, schools need help. But if those yeshivot depend on the money of working Jews, isn't that a Yisachar/Zevulun relationship? How can they say that the very working Jews who they depend on are sub-par? Isn't that chutzpah? Why should I give tzedaka to support a fellow Jew who thinks the fact that I have money because I worked for it instead of sitting in the beit midrash learning is something to be looked down upon? And yet he dares to then ask for monetary help?

But then I have to think of my dad. You see, there are these older ladies, who in our house are called "Abba's Ladies" because my dad's the only one who really deals with them, who come to our door frequently looking for tzedaka. And every single time they come, my dad takes out his wallet and gives them some money. Why? How do we know if they're legitimate? What if it's a fraud? We don't know who these ladies are. They keep coming back because my dad keeps giving them. But every time we question my dad, he always says that it doesn't matter if they're fraud or not. We can't always know who is or isn't really needy or why they're needy or even what they're going to then spend their tzedaka money on. The point is, Jews came to ask for help and we gave it. That is a mitzvah. Instead of the ladies thanking us, we should be thanking them for giving us an opportunity to do the mitzvah of giving tzedaka.

On the other hand, a Jewish family only has so much tzedaka to give. What if one person's a fraud and the next is only needy because he brought it upon himself by not getting a job but the third is truly a poor, needy Jew? What then? And how do you know who's who?

Tzedaka has always been a hard thing for me. I don't know why. I'm a very giving person by nature. I let other people use my caf card (though not now, since I'm trying to make 14 dollars last between today and tomorrow), I give birthday presents, I do anything I can to help people, I love helping people and making them feel better, but when it comes to walking down the street and giving to a homeless person, I don't. I rarely give to the people at the Kotel when I'm there. I just...I'm bad at truly giving tzedaka. Not even that, I seem not to do well with chessed in general. I don't enjoy going to Yachad shabbatons, I'm too afraid to get involved in organizations that help kids with cancer and other diseases, and I want to be able to do these things. I really, really do! But I just don't have it in me. The diseases thing, maybe. If I get over my fear. But the disabled? I don't know why, I just can't bring myself to enjoy doing those things. I know it's some sort of defect in my personality. It doesn't make sense with my overall giving nature, that I can't give tzedaka to a homeless person I see, even if my friend is doing it, I can't get involved in Yachad or Beis Ezra or Kulanu or anything like that. I never enjoyed those trips to nursing homes either. I guess I shouldn't say I 'can't.' That's such a strong statement. It's more like I won't, or I don't want to, or I'm too lazy, or I don't feel strongly enough about it, or I'm shying away from it because it makes me uncomfortable. There could be a thousand reasons but I know none of them justify the fact that I'm not doing it. I guess this is something I just really need to work on.

Back to the original point of this post, I'm not sure how I got on that tangent about myself, very self-centered of me. It's so hard to decide who to give to and who not to give to. It's so hard to give to people who you know feel scorn for your way of life, for the fact that you're even able to give to them in the first place. And I just don't understand how a yeshiva that probably teaches that way of life is wrong can dare to ask money from a working Jew. A Jew who they think is sub-par.

We just always have to remember that tzedaka is a mitzvah. Whether it's to someone who uses the money wrongly, who doesn't really need the money, or who needs it out of his own doings, for the giver it is still a mitzvah and, for that reason alone, we should, I should, try to push aside any negative feelings about who we're giving to and realize that if it weren't for them asking, we might not be getting the mitzvah at that moment.


Scraps said...

1) On the subject of the tangent--are we secretly related or something? I could swear we think the same way.

2) I love how when they're speaking in relative terms, the working man is clearly "sub-par", but when they're honoring the gvir at the yeshivah dinner (also a working man), he's a tzaddik, a baal tzedakah, etc. Hrmph. <_<

frumhouse said...

My grandmother gave tzedaka to whomever came to her door. My dad said she was being fooled. I fall somewhere between those two opinions.

Great post!