Q. When you give to someone, who has to say thank you?
A. Both of you.
"More than the rich man does for the poor, the poor do for him." - The Midrash
This basic Jewish belief that giving Tzedakah (liberally translated as "charity") is a privilege and a blessing is found in the first words of this week's Torah portion. G-d is instructing Moses to run a fundraiser for the construction of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) and He says: "Speak to children of Israel and command them to take a donation to Me."
What could be clearer? "Take a donation to Me." When a person gives Tzedakah, he is not only giving, he is also taking. In fact, there is more taking involved than giving, and hence the poor man does more for the rich man.
How is this all possible? Can it be that giving something away is more of a blessing than receiving something? Can it really be that when I am asked to donate to Tzedakah, I should react with excitement and gratitude? Could it be literally true that giving Tzedakah is a rare, special privileged opportunity to celebrate when it presents itself?
And as anyone who has ever given Tzedakah will tell you, "Of course." But it's hard to explain; you need to taste it for yourself. It's like a great Cholent: you can't imagine that such a mess could be delicious, but then you taste it...and you're in love.
But let's attempt to decipher this logically, just to please the palette of understanding.
1. If you are asked to give, you are usually able to give. And that is already a reason to be grateful.
2. You aren't the person asking. Another good reason to rejoice.
3. In the vast, eternal plan, you have been promoted to Partner, because there was lack in the Creation and you filled it with your generosity and concern.
4. When you are asked to give, you are being presented with a chance to express love. And no one feels as loved as the person who has loved others.
5. G-d could have provided everyone with their needs directly, without the need for human interaction. But He doesn't. He entrusts a needy person's money with me, expecting that when the time comes, I will disperse it accordingly. (A minimum of 10 percent of everyone's finances is a deposit from G-d to disperse to others.)
6. On December 29th, 2007, Tom Brady threw his 50th touchdown pass of the season. It broke the record, anchoring him atop the list of all-time greatest quartebacks. But in order to do that, he needed to release the ball and pass it to his receiver. Is there anyone who thinks Brady resented having to give away the ball?
I cannot tell you the number of times I have thanked people for their donations to Chabad of Calabasas, only to have them vigorously decline and insist that they are thankful for the chance to give. It is an innate, instinctive value and a beautiful, shining example of a true mentsh.
The highest goal for a person who seeks self-improvement is not kindness, or generosity, or even altruism. It is that one day, when G-d deems me worthy by my efforts, I should be granted that elusive, transcendent trait: That doing for others is a bigger pleasure for me than doing for myself. That the needs of other people become even more precious to me than my own.
Shabbat Shalom, Good Shabbos!
Rabbi Eli Friedman
Chabad of Calabasas