Creating Jobs = Maximum Tzedakah

Thank you very much for printing the article entitled “An Overabundance of Stress” (Feb. 18). It was refreshing and gratifying to see a well-written piece that addressed both the hashkafic and practical angles addressing how our community can work towards alleviating the immense stress and pressure that exists as a result of financial issues.

I would like to add — well, not really add but elaborate on — a particular point. The article mentioned how some business owners are going the extra mile to be able to fulfill the highest form of tzedakah by making jobs available to their fellow Yidden, despite certain inconveniences and extra challenges that these hirings can entail.

This concept of making jobs available to one’s fellow Yidden is one that deserves a lot of attention.

Baruch Hashem, our community has many gvirim who really want to make a difference. They work very hard to increase the magnitude of their wealth not because they want to be able to enjoy greater affluence, but primarily because they want to be able to give more, to have the greatest positive impact on Klal Yisrael possible. It is to such people, I believe, that the Gemara is referring when it says “Rabi mechabed ashirim — Rabi Yehudah HaNasi would honor people of wealth.”

They really do deserve great respect and appreciation for all they do for Klal Yisrael.

With their permission, and in taking a cue from the aforementioned article, I would like to give those stellar individuals some food for thought.

Imagine you have two business opportunities in front of you. One is a real-estate investment plan that stands to generate an income increase of $1 million per year, and the other is an opportunity to open a new business that will potentially generate only $300,000 of increased income per year. Additionally, the latter option, seeing that it is a business that needs to be managed and operated, will require much more time and effort in order to make it successful.

Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? The former option — assuming the gvir is giving 20 percent to tzedakah — will afford a $200,000 per year increase in charitable giving, whereas the latter option will only  yield $60,000. It seems perfectly obvious that if you want to make a greater impact, you’ll go for the former option.

However — and this is a big however — there is one major difference between the two options that was not as yet delineated: namely, that the former option will not create any new jobs whereas the latter option will create 20. Each one of those 20 jobs will be paying a mean salary of $75,000 per year.

By now, you probably realize where this is going.

As the article mentioned, the Rambam, in Hilchos Matnos Aniyim, chapter 10, halachah 7, writes as follows:

“There are eight levels of tzedakah, each one above the next. The highest level, of which there is none higher, is one who strengthens the hand of a Jew who is faltering and gives him a gift or a loan, or makes a [business] partnership with him, or provides a job for him, in order to strengthen his hand before he ever gets to the point of needing to ask others [for help], and about this it is said ‘And you shall strengthen him … ,’ meaning steady him before he falls and becomes needy.”

Furthermore, the Chofetz Chaim writes (in Ahavas Chessed, part 2, chapter 21) that within this level of tzedakah (of making the assistance available before the person ever needs to come to the point of asking people for help), the greatest option is where you afford the person a job or business opportunity. A loan won’t usually suffice to provide the person with a proper living, but a job or business opportunity can. This passage is particularly moving: “If Hashem will help that through this he (the person you helped) will profit and he and his whole household will be able to live thereby, Hashem will consider it as if he (the one who provided the help) is the one who provided life to that person and his whole family.”

The upshot of all this, in terms of dollars and cents, is that the latter option is not producing $60,000 of extra tzedakah a year, but $1,560,000 of extra tzedakah a year! That is far more than the $200,000 a year that the former option would produce. It’s not even close!

This point is extremely important to keep in mind. Instead of being focused primarily on increasing cash revenue, the focus should be weighted much more towards those options that will create the maximum number of job opportunities for one’s fellow Yidden. Because, in the most real sense, that is often by far what will generate the most exponential increase to one’s giving of tzedakah and the most significant and meaningful impact for the benefit of Klal Yisrael.