Dealing with Adversity – The Power of Tzedakah

In Parashas Terumah, Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu, Speak to the Bnei Yisrael and let them take (V’yikchu) for Me a portion, from every man whose heart motivates him — you shall take My portion.” (25:2) The Bais Halevi wonders why the Torah used the word “take” and not “give” to refer to the contributions to the Mishkan. He explains that a person’s money is not really his; its use has been assigned to him for the limited time he is in this world. However, the funds one gives to tzedakah are truly his. The Torah uses the word “take” rather than “give” in connection with donating to the Mishkan to convey this lesson.

In previous columns, we cited the declara­tion from the Yamim Nora’im tefillos Teshu­vah, tefillah and tzedakah avert the evil decree” in regard to addressing the current matzav as per Harav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita. We have discussed the first two and today we focus on how tzedakah can impact the situation in Eretz Yisrael as well as our lives in general.

Chazal discuss the concept of tzedakah in many places. Space allows us to cite only a few.

Maseches Shabbos (151b) discusses the con­cept of a galgal shechozer ba’olam — poverty is a revolving wheel in the world: Rabban Gamliel Bar Rebbi quotes the passuk, “He will bestow upon you compassion and show compassion to you and multiply you (Devarim 13:18).” Chazal derive from here that one who shows compas­sion towards Hashem’s creatures is shown com­passion by Hashem, and vice-versa, which the Rema (Yoreh Deah 247:5) codifies, telling us that just as we desire that Hashem fulfill our requests we should fulfill the solicitation of the indigent.

A Rav in an out-of-town kehillah related that a woman who had not been zocheh to have children for quite some time asked him for advice on how to rectify this problem. He advised her to give $360 to Chinuch Atzmai, which enables Yiddishe children to have a proper Torah chinuch. Baruch Hashem, she had children afterward.

Tzedakah has a protective quality as well. Maseches Shabbos 156 discusses the concept “Ein mazel l’Yisrael — the celestial signs hold no sway over Klal Yisrael.”

Rabi Akiva was told by astrologers that on the day of his daughter’s wedding, she would be bit­ten by a snake and pass away. On the day of her wedding, she removed her brooch and stuck it in the wall. The following morning, she pulled her pin from the wall and she was shocked to find a dead snake attached to it. The snake had been lurking in a cleft in the wall when she stuck the pin in the night before. Rabi Akiba asked her what special deed she had done to merit salvation from a near tragedy. She replied that a poor man had arrived at the wedding banquet but nobody paid attention to him. She took her portion and gave it to him. Rabi Akiva responded, “You have done a mitzvah [that carried a special zechus], referencing the famous words of Mishlei (10:2) “Lo yo’ilu otzros resha u’tzedakah tatzil mimaves — Treasures of wickedness will not avail but charity saves from death.”

Maseches Bava Basra 9-11 discusses at length the advantages of giving tzedakah. One state­ment is that “All the tzedakah and chessed that Klal Yisrael perform in this world form abundant peace and defending malachim between them and Avinu sheba’Shamayim,” the benefits of which are self-evident .

On 10a, we learn that if “one gives a coin to a poor man he merits to receive the Shechinah directly, as it says I shall behold Your face through tzedakah (Tehillim 17:15). Based on this, Rabi Eliezer would give a coin to tzedakah before davening, a custom many people follow. This is akin to giving a gift to the king before making a request. We merit continued chasdei Hashem through the chessed we perform.

Our tzedakah not only touches the lives of oth­ers, but it is also transformative. It fashions us into kinder and better people, affording joy and meaning to the giver as well.

Harav Aryeh Levin, zt”l, the famed “Tzaddik of Yerushalayim,” collected and distributed huge sums to tzedakah. He was once walking with someone when a pauper appeared and asked him for assistance. Rav Aryeh had no money and asked his companion to lend him a certain sum. The latter said he would give him the money out­right and there was no need to repay him. Rav Aryeh objected: “This mitzvah is mine and I don’t wish to relinquish it up by giving him your money instead of mine.” Such was the preciousness and value of tzedakah in his eyes.

In these challenging times when we are expe­riencing the birth pangs of Moshiach, perhaps most significant is Chazal’s affirmation (Bava Basra 10a) that “great is tzedakah, for it brings the Geulah closer,” as Yeshayah HaNavi (56:1) says: “Safeguard justice and perform tzedakah for My salvation is near to come.”

Rabbi Yosef Gesser is a longtime writer for Hamodia Newspaper as well as an inspirational speaker on various topics, including dealing with adversity. He can be reached at

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