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Shabbat Parashat Balak 5780

Ein Ayah: The Symbiotic Relationship of the Needy and the Philanthropists

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 12:13-15)

Gemara: [We continue with profound “word games,” focusing on the letters of the alphabet in pairs, with relevant words they can form and their physical characteristics.] Gimmel daletg’mol dalim ­(be kind to the poor). Why does the leg of the gimmel extend toward the dalet? It is because it is the nature of the philanthropist to run after the poor. Why does the leg of the dalet reach back toward the gimmel? It is so that the needy should make himself available to the philanthropist? 


Ein Ayah: We should understand that the value of philanthropy in the world is not just when it comes from the churnings of the heart when one is agitated by the suffering of the poor person and empathizes with him. If that were the case, the philanthropist’s help is in effect to calm his own pain. Nor is the value of philanthropy a mere result of the intellectual realization that it is correct to have mercy on one’s counterpart. 

Rather, Hashem created an order in the world that includes the poor and the rich. The poor have a known function to play in the world, for if they were missing, the world would be incomplete, missing part of its character. It would not be able to reach the lofty goal that its Creator set for it.

It turns out, then, that the needy, whose poverty enables the world to be complete and put up with painful lives, receive their donations as an earned portion. This secret is the most internal part of the mitzva of tzedaka in its highest form and removes from the recipient the lowliness of spirit that people mistakenly attribute to one who might be seen as receiving that which he does not deserve.

The philanthropist who already reached the level of recognizing that he should not give because he is squeamish about the suffering of the poor has an advantage in his philanthropy. If it were a reaction, then he would not give when he was not witness to the great suffering of the needy. But if he knows the great purpose that philanthropy has in the world and the holy satisfaction that the community and the individual are blessed with through tzedaka and acts of kindness, then he will always seek opportunities to expand his philanthropic activities. This is represented by the leg of the gimmel facing toward the dalet.

The idea of tzedaka in the Jewish world stands above the difficulties of life; it transcends the necessity to fill the needs. The great role that philanthropy plays in the world influences not only the moral standing of the philanthropists, who provide the tzedaka, but spiritually impacts the recipients. The Jewish destitute person, who is forced to receive donations, can be uplifted by the notion of his spiritual role to the point that it removes the pain of his physical lacking. He can revel in his part in improving the world and the souls of those who are involved in philanthropy.

Then he can request donations, but not to solve his physical tribulations. He will not need to be pushed by need to present himself to eager philanthropists. Rather, he will come himself like the letter dalet reminds us. He needs to come forward to facilitate bringing the goodness of acts of kindness from the potential to the actual. In this way, he enriches with the gifts of generosity and love, in which both sides of the philanthropic process are equal. The feeling of pain can then be absent even when the need is great, because “the blessing of Hashem is enriching, and sadness will not continue to exist with it” (Mishlei 10:22).      
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