By Rabbi Shmuel Gurary
R’ Zushe from Anipoli, a famed Chassidic master who lived in the late 1700s, would spend hours meditating and praying every morning. A fellow townsman, a man of financial means, didn’t know who R’ Zushe was, but saw his sincerity and prayers and chose to quietly support him by dropping off a sum of money every week. This fellow felt he was being blessed by his actions and saw his business prosper while supporting R’ Zushe.
One morning, the businessman noticed R’ Zushe wasn’t in his usual seat at the synagogue. He was told that R’ Zushe had traveled to his Rebbe, his older brother, R’ Elimelech of Lizhensk. The businessman was quite shocked, thinking, “All this time I thought he was a holy man, and I therefore supported him. But he has a Rebbe? Obviously that rabbi is holier, I may as well support him!” And so the townsman stopped dropping the sums of money near R’ Zushe and began supporting R’ Elimelech.
Shortly after, his business turned sour. He realized that perhaps it had something to do with his actions. He went to R’ Zushe and asked forgiveness and asked why this chain of events happened.
R’ Zushe explained that when he began to support him, he did it sincerely, without any calculations. He did it without thinking if R’ Zushe deserved it or not. Therefore, in heaven he was treated the same way. But once he started to make those calculations, heaven treated him the same way, debating whether indeed he deserved all his wealth. Of course, the townsman understood the message and continued giving tzedakah with pure, wholehearted intentions.
This week’s Torah portion, Parshat Re’eh, tells about the great mitzvah of tzedakah, charity. “Patuach tiftach et tadcha … Noten titen lo.” Open your hand to give.
This coming week begins the Hebrew month of Elul, the month we prepare for the High Holidays, when we take stock of our spiritual selves. As Maimonides teaches us, we increase in giving tzedakah. When we give charity, we create new channels of receiving blessing from G-d.
It is very common to pass a poor man collecting and think, “Go work! Why should I give of my hard-earned money?” or debate if an organization collecting truly needs the funds or has enough because it’s not only about them, it’s about you. When G-d sees you giving without calculating if they’re deserving or not, He will treat you the same without debating your worthiness and bless you with a happy, healthy and sweet new year.
This d’var Torah is dedicated for the complete, miraculous recovery of Yosef Yitzchas ben Chaya Liba.
Rabbi Shmuel Gurary is the rabbi of the Chabad Israeli Center of Baltimore.