Parshas Beshalach 5776
Candle Lighting Time: 4:49 pm
January 22, 2016
Volume 12 Issue 13
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Dvar Torah

  

Food for Thought
  By Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi

The Torah [Shemos 16:4] describes after the Jewish people complained that they did not have any food, Hashem says "I will rain down bread [manna] from the heavens, every day they [the Jewish people] will go out and collect, in order to test whether they will follow my laws or not."
The commentaries ask, what was the big challenge of being provided with food that tasted like anything you possibly wanted?  Could one imagine a better situation?
Ramban and Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh suggest that the test was, they were forced to have a complete reliance on Hashem for food.  In the desert, they had no means to get food on their own.  Furthermore, this was the first time in history that such a thing happened, thus there was no one who ever had this type of experience that could guide them through this struggle.  Additionally, we know they were never allowed to have food in storage for the next day.  Even if one would collect more than the allotted amount, there was never more than a days' worth of food [or 2 days for Friday and Shabbos].  Each and every day no one knew how he would survive or provide for his family.  Such an experience brought them to the stark realization that they were completely dependent on Hashem.  This 40 year test was meant to ingrain into the spiritual DNA of the Jewish people in having full emunah (belief) and bitachon (faith) in the Master of the World.
The Medrash [Yalkut Shemoni Beshalach 258 ] notes, each day 2000 years' worth of food fell, yet they were only able to take one day's amount.  Why?  Rav Eliyahu E. Dessler, z"l, explains, Hashem was teaching them, "I am the All-Capable and the All-Powerful; I can provide everything and at the same time can take it all away" (Michtav M'eliyahu 1:pg. 180).  This was the test they were constantly challenged with in the midbar.
My Rosh Hayeshiva, Harav Moshe Meiselman, shlit"a, asks, what was the point of putting them through such an experience?  The answer is, people naturally have a mentality to be somewhat in control of their own lives and not have to rely on Hashem.  Hashem placed them in a midbar, which was an indirect route, as opposed to through cities which would have been safer and more direct, with no natural resources and no way to survive, precisely because He wanted Klal Yisroel to learn this very important lesson.  After reviewing this message for 40 years, Hashem instructed Aharon to place a portion of manna in a container to serve as a reminder of this lesson for all future generations to learn from.
We are living through trying times.  The situation in the world and Eretz Yisroel in particular is frightening.  We must realize that there is a Masterplan, designed by the One "Whose kindness endures forever" [Tehillim 118] and we strengthen our belief that although we do not see the whole picture this will help bring about the Final Redemption.  May we all merit seeing it speedily in our days!

 
 
Dvar Halacha
 
Laws of Charity    
Part 2 
 
  By  Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi
 
Both men and women are obligated in this mitzvah (Sefer Hachinuch 479).  Children who have reached the age of chinuch [approximately ages 5-6] should be trained in this mitzvah (Laws of Tzedakah and Maaser pg. 32).  Even a poor person is obligated to give charity (Shulchan Aruch YD 248:1).  Theoretically, two poor people may fulfill their obligation by giving charity to one another (Orchos Rabbeinu 1:pg. 302).  It is important to note, generally speaking, women are only obligated if they are financially independent. Therefore, a married woman fulfills her obligation through her husband [and, in many circumstances, should only give a substantial amount of money to tzedakah with the consent of her husband] (Laws of Tzedakah and Maaser pg. 27-32).
When the Torah describes the commandment to give tzedakah , the language used is, "A person should give the poor person dei machsoro" (fill what he lacks).  In other words, a person is required to give another person that which he is lacking.  The Sefer Hachinuch [479] writes this mitzvah is not limited to the rich giving to the poor.  Rather it applies even in situations where a wealthy person is lacking something [e.g. he does not have access to his wallet at this particular moment] and a poor person will be able to fill that need.
Practically, the Rambam [Hil' Matnos Aniyim 7:3] explains, if someone is lacking clothing, the obligation is to get him clothing.  If he is lacking household furniture, you are obligated to get him those items, and if he is lacking a spouse, you are obligated to help him find a spouse.  Additionally, if someone was accustomed to a certain financial status [e.g. a person is used to having household help], and now cannot afford this, you are obligated to provide this, since these items are currently lacking for him.  It is important to note, the Poskim write that one fulfills his obligation by giving money to the person lacking in order that they can buy the object they specifically need (The Laws of Tzedakah and Maaser pg. 5 ftnt.7).  Rambam concludes that the obligation is to take away what one is lacking, but not to make him rich.  Additionally, according to the Sefer Hachinuch [479], included in this commandment is saying kind and comforting words to another.
One is only considered "lacking" if he was used to this status before he became poor.  If however, he developed an "expensive" lifestyle after one becoming poor, you are not obligated to fulfill his newly acquired taste (Aruch Hashulchan YD 250:2).
If one is lacking funds to pay for a mitzvah [e.g. buying tefillin ], there is a dispute whether this is included in the obligation to give tzedakah.  According to the Chafetz Chaim,zt"l, this is included in tzedakah (Biur Halachah 671:1 s.v. v'afilu).  Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, argues that although this is a very nice thing to do, it is not considered tzedakah (Igros Moshe YD 2:141:3 s.v. u'payrish).
The Rambam [Hilchos Matnos Aniyim 7:1] and Shulchan Aruch [YD 249:1] write there are three different levels when it comes to performing tzedakah giving : 1) 20%, 2) 10% or 3) less than 10%. One who gives 20% is fulfilling the mitzvah the best possible way, 10% is considered average, and one who gives less than 10% is considered stingy.
From a Biblical standpoint, as long as one has given 1/3rd of a shekel over the course of an entire year, he has fulfilled his obligation (Shulchan Aruch YD 249:2).  In USD this is a very small amount and depending on the value of silver, this can be less than one dollar (see Laws of Tzedakah and Maaser pg. 8).  As an aside, in order to ensure that each person fulfills at least the minimum level, the custom became to collect tzedakah during davening (Shach YD 249:4).

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