Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk




Tzedaka is mentioned many times in all of our teachings. Having a “lev tov,” a good heart, is a part of the curriculum of our Jewish youngsters (as well as other children) when Tzedaka boxes are there to save money for the needy. Giving to the poor, to those who have less than bare necessities, to the deserving who would otherwise go “without” the essentials to sustain “life and limb” is a Mitzwe and essential for those who care about their fellow human beings.  A person who shares a sip of water from his last flask in the dessert is an “esches tov.”  One who shares with the poor, the needy, the forgotten, the hungry, is a decent person, is a person with a “lev tov,” a person with a good heart.

Our surroundings in our country today are constantly reminding us to give, to veterans, to the police, to various agencies, and more.  They attempt to shame the rational human being who does not comply with their constant reminders.  Many swindlers join the “club” in begging for money.  This is theft. We as Jewish people and as citizens of our beloved America must remember that we must not give in to those cries of the greedy, the criminals, the folk who pretend to help the poor, when in reality they aggrandize themselves with the money that they accumulate with their false cries for monetary contributions.  This includes the heads of a number of agencies who assert they are helping the poor when in reality they collect to give themselves unbelievably high salaries that are not earned and not given to help the poor. They are “needed” for themselves while they sit comfortably in their easy chairs with questionable titles, pleasing the rich and robbing the poor.  They have the ability to delude people with speeches and flatteries that are very charming and deceptive.  Those who do not answer to the demands of these charlatans are placed in the role of the proverbial “skinflints,” stingy creatures who do not care for their pathetically poor fellow humans. The takers reward the generous givers with honors of many kinds, often flattering them publicly for their donations to the alleged poor.  The reality is often the greedy heads of organizations utilize the unbelievable “salaries” they obtain which could make the needy, poor, often ill folk have a little better, more comfortable existence than is theirs.  Rachmones (pity) does not enter the brain of the person in charge of these organizations, which allegedly assist the deserving, poor recipients.

To all those of you who are approached to give, it is essential that you investigate the requestor, the taker, the organization who uses pathetic phrases, guilt, and other means to demand money from you, before you respond.  You need to know the budget they have, how high is the salary of the person in charge, how much of the contributions reach the poor and much more.  Do not allow yourself to be intimidated.  You are doing a disservice to those who are in dire need and receive very little if any help from the charity that is collected from the “Nadven,” the giver.

The greatest Mitzwe (blessing) goes to the kind person who gives directly to the person who is the just recipient of the gift, especially if it is given anonymously without expecting the poor person to have to be shamed (shaming anyone is one of the biggest “Neveres,” sins).  No impoverished proud person wants to be a beggar , a “schnorrer.”  It can be imagined  if you put yourself into the poor one's place.

The folk who escaped the Holocaust and came to this country were often the recipients of shame and embarrassment.  They were frequently given grudgingly some old piece of clothing, a little food, or some other “gift.”  The giver generally wanted to be thanked repeatedly for the great donation that he made to the poor “fortunate” holocaust survivor.  It sometimes was so painful for the individual or family thus begifted that they preferred to be hungry and without the ill fitting piece of clothing that was offered them.


 Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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