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Monday, May 07, 2007

Behar: The Juxtaposition of Shmitta and Tzedaka.

After the dinim of Shvi’is and Yovel, the Torah talks about Ki Yomuch. Harav Menachem Ben-Tzion Zachs, in his sefer, Menachem Tzion, explains the smichus of these two parshios.

Shvi’is and Yovel demand tremendous bitachon (giborei koach.) But if a poor man comes to the door, we cannot free ourselves from the chiyuv of tzedaka by telling him to have bitachon, that Hashem will provide— we have to help him as much as we can as quickly as we can and not wait for Hashem to provide for him. So the Torah is illustrating this dichotomy of hashkafa by putting the two dinim next to each other: for yourself, have bitachon, and say that Hashem will provide. For the other, don’t rest until you have done everything you can do, and say that if you do not help him he will die.

I saw the Dubner Magid quoted as saying this too. He says there are people who have, but worry about tomorrow, and people who don’t have, but trust that Hashem will provide. Ironically, you will often find that when you ask these two types for tzdakah, the first type will excuse themselves in their hearts by thinking that Hashem will take care of the poor just as they deserve, and the second type will give without any hesitation, because the person is hungry and needs immediate help.

All this is certainly true, but the fact remains that there seems to be a philisophical inconsistency in encouraging faith for one's own affairs, and ignoring the condign justice of God when it comes to the needs of the poor. This requires explanation: if a person is a ba’al bitachon, and truly believes that Hashem will take care, how can he ‘switch off’ his faith?

The answer is that when an opportunity to give tzedakah arises, your intervention is precisely what Hashem is seeking. On the other hand, in the case of seeking personal parnassa, it is not likely that Hashem is waiting for you to do whatever it is that earns you the money. God did not create the world so that you could balance those books or make that sale. Hashem's intention is that you turn to Him in recognition that it is His will that determines whether your efforts succeed or fail.

This explanation is suggested by the discussion in the Gemara Bava Basra 10a, where Turnusrufus asked Reb Akiva “if your God loves the poor, why doesn’t he take care of them?” and “if your God wants them to be poor, aren’t you subverting his will by caring for them?” Reb Akiva answered that we are God's agents, and our job is to take care of those among His beloved children who have nothing of their own. This is similar to the discussion of the appropriateness of intervention and tefilla for a choleh, whose illness is an expression of God's will (Bava Kamma 85a). Similarly, Chazal tell us that when one is ill, he should assume that his condition stems from his sinfulness. But one does not fulfil the mitzva of bikur cholim by telling the choleh that he is sick because he is sinful. And this is true for nichum aveilim as well: don't tell the bereaved that the person who died deserved it. Tziduk Hadin is important for the aveilim, but it is not a proper topic for the people who are coming to console them.

Charles Barsotti has a nice illustration of this concept, here:
http://www.cartoonbank.com/item/119385

The Barsotti cartoon can be purchased, matted, in a deluxe frame, for $350. Or you can print out little copies and give them to meshulachim instead of checks.

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