A Mitzvah is Like a Candle

This week’s Torah reading mentions the lighting of the menorah, the special golden candelabra which was placed in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and later in the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple), which was to be lit daily. In reference to this, the Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 36:3) quotes the verse from Mishlei (Proverbs) (6:23) which compares Torah to light, and a mitzvah (Torah commandment) to a candle.

The Midrash then interprets this analogy and says as follows: “Many times, a person is inspired to do a mitzvah, and the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) that’s inside him says to him, ‘Why would you do this mitzvah which will decreases your assets? Instead of giving your money away to others, keep the money for your own children!’ And the Yetzer Tov (Good Inclination) says, ‘Give for the mitzvah! Look at what it says, ‘A mitzvah is like a candle.’ Just like with a candle, you can ignite thousands upon thousands of candles and torches with it, yet its light remains as bright as before, so too, anyone who gives to a mitzvah does not decrease his assets.’”

You Lose Nothing From Doing a Mitzvah

In other words, the reason for which one would hesitate to spend his money on a Mitzvah is entirely false! A person finds it difficult to part with his money because he wants to keep it for himself to enjoy. But spending money on a mitzvah, such as giving charity, is like using a flame to light another candle. God will see to it that the money one spends on the mitzvah will be replenished, and he will lose nothing from giving it away.

This concept is in fact mentioned by the Tur amidst the laws of giving tzedakah (charity), as a guiding principle. The Tur (Yoreh De’ah 247) makes a remarkable statement as follows: “It has been checked out and tested, that a person does not lose from giving tzedakah. On the contrary, it increases his wealth and honor!”

Tenfold Donations

One day, Mr. Y. received a call from a fundraiser for an institution to which Mr. Y. had been giving modest donations on a monthly basis. The man on the line asked Mr. Y. if he would renew his commitment, and suggested increasing the monthly amounts. Mr. Y. was happy to continue with his monthly contributions, and said that when he makes more money, he would gladly give more. The fundraiser, in response, asked Mr. Y., “How old are you?” When he learned that Mr. Y. was in his early twenties, he chuckled and said, “You are young. As life progresses, your expenses will increase and you will have only less money to donate, not more.”

Mr. Y., in fact, had the last laugh. Mr. Y. was very scrupulous about giving tzedakah, and always gave very generously. Yes, his expenses certainly increased significantly over the years, but his income increased even more. A decade later, his monthly donations were over tenfold the amount he gave originally. Because the more you give, the more you get.

An Investment with Pure Profit

This concept is mentioned in the Talmud as well. The Talmud says (16a), “All of a person’s provisions are determined on Rosh Hashanah (for the coming year) except for his expenditures for Shabbat, Yom Tov (Jewish Holidays), and Torah education for his children. If he spends less, he gets less, and if he spends more, he gets more.” The Ritva (see Shita Mekubetzes) writes in his commentary on this passage that this rule really applies to all that one spends on any mitzvah, and the Talmud only chose to cite the most common examples.

This is one of the lessons represented by the menorah. The money one spends on a mitzvah is compared to a flame which does not diminish when it is shared. This principle is a tremendous revelation. It’s not always easy to part with our hard-earned money to spend it on a mitzvah. But this concept creates a new perspective when faced with such a challenge. Giving away money for a mitzvah is not a matter of sacrificing our enjoyment of the money for the sake of donating to a cause. It is an investment with pure profit, in the form of reward for the mitzvah, and a no-loss guarantee, backed by God Himself. This is not just someone’s theory, but as the Tur testifies, it is a tried-and-true fact. It would be simply foolish for one to be stingy when it comes to spending money on a mitzvah.

By Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber torah4every1@gmail.com

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