Rabbi Yossi's Blog

Welcome to Rabbi Yossi's Blog; where you can expect to find thoughts on current events, Torah learning and Jewish spirituality. And of course, some good Jewish humor.

Guest Contributor: Rabbi Yosef Levin

Lessons in Giving from this weeks' Torah portion

By Rabbi Yosef Levin

Director, Chabad of Palo Alto

This week we read a double Parsha, Vayakel and Pekudei, and in addition we take out a second Torah and read “Parshat Hachodesh”, that teaches us the Mitzvah of setting the months by the new moon, and the Mitzvah of the Pesach sacrifice.  I will comment on the second Parsha, Pekudei, which begins with the accounting of all the materials used for the building of the sanctuary.  Moshe gives a precise count of the weight of each material and what it was used for.  Even though no-one would suspect Moshe of misusing or “appropriating” any of the donated items, nevertheless he taught us that when one is responsible for community funds, it is necessary to give the community a full accounting of how the funds were used.  Perhaps another lesson here is the importance of using our resources well.  If we recognize that G-d gives us what we need in order to bring light to the world, to make a “sanctuary for G-d” out of our material possessions, then everything we have needs to be used for that purpose, and anything we waste is an opportunity missed.

There is another lesson here that I think applies specifically to our current situation.  Many people are suffering from loss of work, loss of net worth and loss of financial stability.  People who worked their whole life to save for their retirement have lost everything.  Multi-millionaires are facing foreclosure on their homes or bankruptcy in their businesses, G-d forbid.  Many people have cut back on their Tzedaka.  My unscientific poll shows that Tzedaka giving in our community is down by at least 50%.  People are saying that they have to be more careful now since times are tough.  I understand this and do not fault anyone who feels this way, but I have a very different view on this.

If you think about it, none of us knows what tomorrow will bring.  There are people who denied themselves and did not spend on things they would have liked to, just in order to be secure for the future.  There are many people I know who did not give charity according to their means, in order to increase their savings and the money for their retirement.  The Torah teaches us that each person should give 10% of his or her income to Tzedaka as a base line, if possible 20%, and more if that is possible to help those less fortunate or to support Torah institutions.  In addition, there are other forms of Tzedaka, inviting guests, giving food or clothing to the needy, helping someone with their needs.  Tzedaka is the greatest Mitzvah, because it elevates our income and all that we do to create that income to holiness.  When we give Tzedaka, we are investing in the world, improving its spiritual environment.  At the same time, we are improving the physical environment, creating a world of goodness and kindness, not to mention the benefit to the recipient, and even to the giver, who becomes a kinder and better person.  This investment can never be lost.  The Mitzvah and the improvement in the world is permanent.

So let’s all take a good look at what we can learn from the current financial bust.  Do we know what tomorrow will bring?  If we cut back on our Tzedaka and save our money, can we be guaranteed it will be there tomorrow?  Will our financial investments yield profits or will they end up in some swindler’s pocket or just evaporate into thin air?  Imagine if all the billions of dollars that were lost had been given to charity, how much better would the world be and how much better would we all feel about ourselves?  It seems to me that this is a time to get the message and give more.  Now how’s that for a stimulus package?

Chabad on NPR

Chabad rabbis are targeting an overlooked population that they say is hungry for spiritual uplift: addicts who are Jewish. Chabad's "Jewish recovery" movement is gaining momentum. Click here to listen.

Miracle in Jerusalem!

You may have heard this story from last Thursday about the latest bulldozer rampage in Israel. Pay attention to the video below and you will see a miracle! The terrorist in the bulldozer attempts to push over a bus full of children and is unable to because of the lamppost. Had he been a few feet over – who knows!?!

If you don’t understand Hebrew: you will see the bulldozer approach from the left hand side of the screen, it will disappear for a moment and then reappear pushing a police car into the bus. Notice how he attempts to push over the bus but is blocked by the lamppost. He backs up to try again and is shot by a police officer and by a taxi driver. The scene repeats itself a few times so don’t worry if you miss it the first time.

Purim Stimulus!

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