Thursday, May 14, 2015

Behar-Bechukosai 5775, May 2015, The Giving Women

Ten matters were created, each stronger than the previous.
Rock is strong, but iron breaks it; 
Iron is strong, but fire melts it;
Fire is strong, but water extinguishes it;
Water is strong, but clouds carry it;
Clouds are strong, but winds blow them away;
Wind is strong, but the body can hold air; 
The body is strong, but fear breaks it;
Death, though, is mightier than all of these.
Tzedaka is more powerful even than that; it rescues from death. (Bava Basra)

Through giving to others even the rich can be saved from punishment when they have committed sins nothing else will ameliorate (Vayikra Rabbah). Tiferet Tzion tells us that the giver receives far more in heavenly reward than he gives in monetary value.

But of course it is not only money that constitutes tzedaka. While men are often known as big "machers," financial donors or benefactors, we all know that it takes more than cash (not that cash isn't nice) to support a person. Time, energy, kindness, assistance, support, all of these can be given to a person who needs them.

In fact, the very parable given of "tzedaka," in Midrash Tanchuma and elsewhere, is that of a donkey overloaded, such that a single person is needed to adjust its load whereas if the donkey is loaded up still more and pushed to walk farther with the overly heavy baggage, it will collapse and a great number of people would still be inadequate to assist it then. This isn't a matter of throwing money at a problem; it is a a matter of assisting in exactly the way that assistance is needed.  And we all know well that it is women in our popular consciousness, and not men, who are noted for their ability to support each other, discover the nature of each others' burdens, shift them, remove them, readjust them, and otherwise lighten the load so that the other person can continue their journey to their own destination.

It is wonderful to give tzedaka in the strictly financial sense. But however much we each can do that, we are still also obligated to do more; to give of ourselves, to give our very selves, in the way we can. Of course each person has a unique "fund" of personal spiritual-emotional wealth available, some more and some less.
Frequently we give of ourselves in the very sense of
physically enabling the needs of others.
This is the glory of the woman. The giving of herself.  Yet never forget that as they say, charity begins at home. Never forget to give to yourself too. Your energy, time, effort, and care must first go to sustaining your own emotional and spiritual needs.

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