Parshas Yisro 5776
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January 29, 2016
Volume 12 Issue 14
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Dvar Torah



  By Rabbi Shmuel Sussman

In this week's parsha, Parshas Yisro, Moshe names his two sons. His first son's name was Gershom in recognition of the fact that he was a ger, a stranger, in a foreign land. His second son's name was Eliezer, which recalls that Hashem saved him from the sword of Paroh. Why did Moshe do this? Why was it necessary to point out these two phenomena? 

The Pardes Yosef explains that Moshe was concerned that his children would grow up in Midyan and think that this is their land. Their grandfather Yisro was an important official there. They could become happy and complacent with their environment and have no desire to change. Moshe wanted his children to know that they are strangers and that they belong with the rest of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisroel. He named his second son Eliezer for the same purpose. He wanted to impress upon his children that once upon a time Jews were quite happy and content with the situation in Egypt. Moshe even lived in Paroh's palace as a prince. And then things got bad. It even got to the point where Paroh, the king of Egypt tried to kill him. It was only through Hashem's mercy that he was saved. Moshe wanted them never to be content in a foreign land. A Jew must never forget that we are in exile. No matter how well things are going, we have to understand we are strangers and guests. The tide can turn in an instant. One must hope and aspire to be with all Jews in Eretz Yisroel.

Rabbi Yissocher Frand brings out this lesson from a gemara in Bava Basra (73b). Rabba Bar Bar Chana relates that he was on a boat with a group of people and they saw a very large fish that had sand and grass on its back. The fish was so large that they assumed it was an island. They disembarked, went on the "island", and cooked and baked on it. The heat of the fire bothered the fish and it started to shake them off. If not for the fact that they were near their ship they would've drowned. The Maharsha understands that this isn't something that actually occurred. Rather it's a parable. It alludes to the status of the Jews in exile. Often we get comfortable in our host countries and don't realize that this isn't our home. We mistake the fish for an island. We get comfortable. We "cook and bake" and do all sorts of activities as if it is our homeland. But then Hashem makes something happen to remind us that we are in exile and that this isn't our country. If we aren't close to the ship, ready and able to do teshuva, then we may drown.

History is full of examples to prove this point. However, we need not look back in time to discover this. All we need to do is pay attention to current events. The daily headlines are screaming to us. Anti-Semitism is rampant even in countries that have always been friendly to us. There is no real safe haven. We need to internalize the message of Moshe and understand that we are in exile and we are strangers. Until Moshiach comes and all of Jewry lives in Eretz Yisroel together, we aren't secure. May we merit the coming of Moshiach in our days, and we will all live in Eretz Yisroel in peace and harmony.

Dvar Halacha
Laws of Charity    
Part 3
  By  Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi
In addition to a minimum requirement [which we discussed last week], Chazal instituted a maximum amount that may be given; one should not give more than 20% of his money. The reason is, in order that the donor himself will not become poor and need to rely on other people (Gemara Kesubos 50a & Rema YD 249:1). However, there are exceptions when he may give more. Many of these circumstances are subject to dispute and therefore a Rav should be consulted. Exceptions include: one who is extremely wealthy, before one dies, as an atonement for one's sins , if the poor person is in front of you [and you can afford it], pikuach nefesh (saving one's life), pidyon shivuyim (redeeming captives),supporting Torah institutions and Torah scholars, one who has a steady income, money not earned [e.g. found or inherited] and someone who in general wastes his money (see Laws of Tzedakah and Maaser pg. 80-85 for sources).
Although the implication of the Shulchan Aruch [YD 249:1] that "One who gives 20% fulfills the mitzvah to the highest level" is that giving 20% is optional and not mandatory, there is a dispute in a case where the poor person is in front of you [and is not capable of supporting himself (e.g. young orphans)], whether there is an obligation to give 20% or it is praiseworthy (Ahavas Chesed 2:19:4). Additionally, there are many opinions that hold as long as one knows of a poor person, it is considered as if he is physically in front of you. Therefore, if he receives a letter [signed by reputable Rabbanim] in the mail, informing about someone's needs, one would be obligated to contribute [assuming he can afford it] (Shu"T Be'er Moshe 4:92). Even if one is not able to contribute, it is still befitting to daven that this poor person be relieved from their financial plight (Priorities in Tzedakah pg. 45).
It is important to keep in mind, when faced with a situation of giving tzedakah, even if one does not have what to give, he should appease the poor person with words (Rambam Hil' Matnas Aniyim 7:7). If however, he discovers that a person collecting tzedakah is a fraud, it would be permitted to chastise him (Aruch Hashulchan YD 249:3).
The Rambam [Hil' Matnas Aniyim 10:7-15] and Shulchan Aruch [YD 249:6-13] list eight levels of how one can fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah [the order is written from highest to lowest, for the more one can avoid embarrassing the recipient the better, as we try to imitate Hashem as much possible]: 1) Make it possible for a person not to need tzedakah. Included is anything that would help someone be self-sufficient, both before or after one becomes poor (e.g., find them a job, giving someone a gift or loan and allowing him to pay back over time, and supporting Jewish businesses), because by fulfilling tzedakah this way, it allows the recipient to maintain his dignity, 2) both the donor and the recipient do not know to whom or from whom the money is going, 3) the donor knows who is receiving the money, but the recipient does not know whom the donor is, 4) the recipient knows who the donor is, but the donor does not know the recipient is, 5) giving money to a poor person, before the poor person asks for help [this is less embarrassing for the recipient, since he did not have to ask for the money], 6) after the poor person asks for help, give him all of what he needs, 7) after the poor person asks for help, give him some of what he needs with a happy face, and 8) after the poor person asks for help, give him with a heavy heart [but the poor person does not realize his reluctance].
It is important to note, if one gives tzedakah and shows his displeasure, he loses his reward for the mitzvah (Shulchan Aruch YD 249:3). This is in addition to violating a negative commandment (Shach YD 249:5). Additionally, the Zohar writes there is a level in Gehinnom for people who showed brazenness to poor people (Derech Emunah 10:ftnt. 16).

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