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Parshot Festivals

A shield of armour

  • Ilan1 (003)
At first glance, the calendar looks like a good old “regular Shabbos” (none, of course, are), but Parshat Re’ei tells you it’s not. Re’ei signals that the Day of Judgement is a month away!
by Rav Ilan Herrmann | Aug 10, 2018

The portion directs us to the most important focus areas from now to Rosh Hashanah. One of these prime focal areas, emphatically dealt with in this week’s portion, is the commandment to give charity. Why is charity brought into focus now in the lead up to Rosh Hashanah? Here are a few reasons. May they propel us to take concrete action.

When one gives charity, one brings upon oneself a protective shield. Our sages teach that its impact offers fortification both to one’s physical well-being and to one’s spiritual refinement and elevation. This spiritual armour also acts as a shield against the penetrative judgement that takes place on Rosh Hashanah.

A further reason – particularly at this time – is that by giving charity, we express in action an empathy and generosity towards another in need, even if they don’t deserve it. By doing so, we encourage a reciprocal divine response. Just as we are extending to another in need and who may not be worthy, G-d should similarly be compassionate and generous in judging and blessing us, even though we may not deserve it.

A third reason is that a father gets the most satisfaction when his children care for one another. The giving of charity expresses a bond between people in which one cares for and helps out one’s fellow man in need. We are G-d’s children after all, and G-d’s satisfaction is aroused by our love and concern for one another. The blessing that flows from this is of the highest nature.

A fourth reason is that the means and sustenance we have is ultimately provided to us by G-d, and the day of allocation and disbursement is primarily Rosh Hashanah. G-d is likened to an investor, and when an individual shows he or she is making the investment work, achieving a profit, then the investor is motivated to invest more knowing the investment is being well managed. G-d wants us to be generous, he commands us to give tzedakah. By doing so, especially before Rosh Hashanah, we send a strong message that our portfolio is worthy of further investment.

The famous story of Sir Moses Montefiore is relevant here. Montefiore was purported to be worth an incredible fortune. He was asked what his net worth was, to which he answered, “I am worth what I have given away, assets that have been dispersed for charitable reasons, to the betterment of people and society.” Asked to explain, he said, “What I have in my possession is an illusion, it can be taken away at any time, and indeed I can be taken away at any time, hence my only true asset is what I have given away. That has been registered in absolute terms, and its currency is no longer physical but spiritual and eternal.”

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