Charity – A Kindness for Yourself
In this week’s Torah reading, the verse says (22:24), “When you lend money to a poor person with you, you should not pressure him to pay back [if he can’t].” What do the words “with you” refer to? One of the interpretations that the Midrash gives (Shemot Rabbah, 31:14) is that the verse is hinting that when you are kind to a poor person, in reality, you are being kind to yourself. Because when a person gives or lends money to the poor, he earns eternal reward for his deed.
But if a person refuses to share his money with the poor, not only does he lose out on the mitzvah (the merit of fulfilling God’s commandment), in the end, he will lose his money as well. At the same time, God will make sure to provide for the poor person in a different way. Thus, the kindness you are bestowing on the poor person is in reality, primarily, kindness “to yourself.”
God Dispenses the Money
This is an example of how one does not gain any pleasure from doing the wrong thing. A person who refuses to share his money with the needy thinks that he is gaining, at least on a material level, by keeping his money for himself. But the truth is that he doesn’t even gain from it in this physical world. Because if he doesn’t share his money the way he is supposed to, God is going to take the money away from him.
Nor does the poor person lose out from this person’s lack of generosity, for God will provide the poor with what he deserves to have, in a different venue. The outcome is not in a person’s control; it’s all about making the right choice. A person doesn’t gain anything from sinning, because whatever money he is supposed to have, he will have regardless. And whatever money a person is not supposed to have, he will lose, regardless of what he does to attempt to hold on to it.
It’s All Been Pre-Ordained on Rosh Hashanah
This concept does not apply only to financial matters, but to all aspects of life. Rabbi Aryeh Tzvi Frumer of Klozigluv writes (Eretz Tzvi, Parshat Vayeitzei, on the Haftorah) that in essence, every sin one commits boils down to a lack of faith. Everything a person will have throughout the year is determined in the beginning of the year, on Rosh Hashanah. This means that it was determined in Heaven how much pleasure a person will receive that year, and it’s impossible to gain more than what was allotted for him that year.
When a person is enticed to sin, it’s only because he thinks he can gain more pleasure by doing so, which he wouldn’t have had otherwise. If a person would acknowledge that all the pleasure he is going to have is allotted to him by Heaven, and that he can’t possibly get any more than that, there would be no reason to sin. By choosing to sin, a person is only losing, for he will be punished for obtaining pleasure he would have otherwise gotten in a permissible way.
It’s like the rich person who thinks he is gaining a few dollars for himself by refraining from sharing his money with the poor, only to lose out in the end on both the money and the reward he could have gotten for the deed. It may seem like you are gaining in the moment, but you are only losing the same benefit elsewhere, in addition to the spiritual loss incurred by making the wrong choice.
Your Pleasure Was Already Spent
A person once shared with Reb Shlomke of Zhvill how upset he was about the fact that he had recently lost his gold watch. Reb Shlomke asked him, “Did you by any chance experience recently any great pleasure from something out of the ordinary?” “Yes,” replied the man. He had recently purchased some items for his house which were considered excessive luxuries at that time and place. Reb Shlomke then explained to him how that was the reason for losing his watch. Because he got extra pleasure from those new items, Heaven had arranged for him to lose out on having the pleasure he had from his watch.
The Experience of Your Pleasure is Up to You!
Reb Shlomke lived his life by this principle. He taught that on Rosh Hashanah it is determined how much pleasure and how much suffering a person will have that year, and it is up to a person to determine how he will experience it. One can choose to endure pain from exerting himself to do mitzvot, good deeds and study Torah. By doing so, he won’t have to endure that pain some other way. A person can derive pleasure from a sin, but that will only detract from getting the same amount of pleasure he was destined to receive in a permissible way. A person cannot gain more pleasure than what Heaven has allotted him. He can only choose in which manner he will obtain it.
By Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber email@example.com