Given the sophistication of today’s generation in many areas of life, it should be a given that people have a clear grasp of their set of beliefs and the practical application thereof. Unfortunately, the facts on the ground prove the opposite.
A case in point is the now-popular method of fundraising for worthy causes. In sync with the stylish mode of the quick fix, the needy — and who isn’t — are promised the desired yeshuah. For the right sum, any need is fulfilled. Boys and girls of age find their basherte, the sick are healed, and even a business deal is promised success. That the salvation did not arrive in due time is not proof of the unworthiness of the cause to effect the yeshuah. On the contrary, it proves insufficient participation in the cause.
From the fundraisers’ perspective, this is a win-win proposition. Success at the first attempt will serve as a welcome promotion to the next fundraising round, which might even use the real name of the salved soul; but if the solution to the problem fails to come, an increase of contribution is the next step.
Puzzlingly, the only thing not promised is a dramatic increase of yiras Shamayim, or a better grasp of Torah. One may wonder why those essential things are not candidates for salvation.
The answer to this quandary is also the reason why the aforementioned methods are, from a halachic and hashkafic perspective unacceptable.
Yiras Shamayim is attained by living with emunah; shortcuts are of no avail. The essence of yiras Shamayim is the acknowledgment that the world is run by Divine providence, and everything happens for a reason. Everyone is created to accomplish a purpose in his lifetime, and his conduct determines the conditions to achieve this goal. This is the rule of middah k’negged middah.
Our tefillos reflect this: the first request of the Amidah is for daas, wisdom to comprehend our mission in life. This tefillah is meaningless without the realization of His all-encompassing presence, and a surrender to His will. Only then can we merit the conditions for achieving daas.
Daas is a precondition to understanding the nature of tzedakah. The obligation and purpose of giving tzedakah, particularly in times of need, is to evoke the attribute of mercy, the middas harachamim. Therefore one may give tzedakah al menas sheyichye beni, that my child be healed. But the only One who can define real rachamim is He Who is the Creator of this attribute. Thus, even if the child is not healed, the tzedakah was not given in vain. The attribute of mercy was evoked, but not in a way that the human mind can comprehend. As human beings, our comprehension of rachamim is limited; whereas Hashem, the quintessence of rachamim, conducts the world by the absolute standards of this middah, which are way beyond our grasp.
The acceptance of this truism is a foremost principle of our emunah. This is the way our parents and innumerable generations before them viewed and lived life. It gave them the endurance to overcome the most formidable tests of this galus, from the autos-da-fé of the Inquisition to the furnaces of the concentration camps.
To encourage support for a worthy cause by promising wholesale yeshuos is a corruption of the principles of our emunah. This fact is not changed by approbations or pictures of great people.
We have the obligation to support our neediest, but no right to do so by public relations methods that may result in chillul Hashem. The suggestion that one inyan tzedakah is more worthy than another due to the approbation of great Rabbanim leaves a bitter taste. This is in addition to the fact that the bulk of responders to those calls and contributors to those organizations are not the wealthy but people in need, whose desperation is being exploited. Any additional comment is unnecessary.
As time goes on, the success of these innumerable promotions depends on more and more obscure offerings. A case in point is the promise of finding one’s spouse by donating to an organization that promotes a 24-hour non-stop tikkun performed by mekubalim at Yonasan ben Uziel’s kever. It promises to break the ayin hara and sweep aside the obstacles that have kept his/her soulmate away. In addition, “48 Chessed Talleisim that [supposedly] ensure Heavenly blessing of harmony in marriage” are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. We look forward to the soon-to-come yeshuah, but are concerned about the response of the disappointed donor if the desired spouse did not appear, or the harmony of his marriage did not improve.
Ayin hara and tikkunim are elements of our belief system, but the commercial promotion of these sensitive concepts is the antithesis of emunah. These phenomenona are to be left to talmidei chachamim, who may apply them as remedies when appropriate, as was done for generations going back to the time of the Talmud. No cause, however worthy, can justify the manipulation of matters that are mikivshono shel olam, mysteries of creation.
Not less worrisome is the play on the emotions of people in need. It speaks volumes about the desperation of otherwise sensible people who turn to those avenues for help. But it also speaks volumes about the standard of our fundraising methods that respectable organizations find it impossible to raise funds unless they promise yeshuos.
It is about time that this runaway train be stopped, so that we can restore the right attitude for giving tzedakah. Otherwise, we risk confusing emunah with emunah tefeilah — superstition.
The writer of these lines considers himself unworthy to comment on a matter of such significance. Only the observation that this sentiment is shared by many — gedolim v’tovim — compelled this writing, in the hope that it may serve as food for thought….