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Geshmack Dvar Torah of the Week: What is money for?

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

What is money for?

In the part of the Parsha that discusses the way one should treat others, the monetary law mentioned explains that one must take care of the needy. The pasuk (22:24) says אִם כֶּסֶף תַּלְוֶה אֶת עַמִּי אֶת הֶעָנִי עִמָּךְ...... - When you lend money to My people, to the poor person with you....

There is a slight difficulty in interpreting the word עִמָּךְ - with you - in the context. There are explanations by the Alshich, Vilna Gaon, and Kli Yakar, among others, regarding the way money and charity are perceived.

The Alshich (biography here) explains that money is not ours, it is merely deposited with us by G-d. We are given the privilege of having money in order to share it with people who are less fortunate. He explains that the pasuk is telling us that אִם כֶּסֶף תַּלְוֶה אֶת עַמִּי - when we lend money - אֶת הֶעָנִי עִמָּךְ - it belongs to the poor, it just happens to be with you. This is a lesson we can certainly take aboard, that nothing is really "ours", and we should therefore take great responsibility and care for it.

The Vilna Gaon (biography here) explains that the pasuk is alluding to a standard monetary law: loans are done before witnesses to prevent unscrupulous activity, whereas charity is done in solitude, and no-one needs to know. אִם כֶּסֶף תַּלְוֶה - When you lend money - אֶת עַמִּי - do so before My people - אֶת הֶעָנִי - the poor however - עִמָּךְ - do it alone. This is certainly the correct way to give charity, in secret.

The Kli Yakar (biography here) explains that when a person gives charity or a charitable loan, all good deeds and benefits resultant from it are credited to the person who financed the good deeds and actions. אִם כֶּסֶף תַּלְוֶה אֶת עַמִּי אֶת הֶעָנִי - If you lend/give money to my people or the needy - עִמָּךְ (all the merits that result) are with you too!

We can certainly incorporate all these ideas when we give charity, that the money is not ours to begin with, that we should do it in secret, and that the merit of charity does not stop once you've given it, you still receive all resultant merits performed as a result of your kindness.

Cross posted on The Living Torah Weekly

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