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This week is Shabbos Mevorchim, when we bless the new month of Elul, which ushers in the High Holiday season. Rosh Chodesh, falls on Tuesday, August 22nd and Wednesday, August 23rd. To put us in a proper spiritual frame of mind, we recite Psalm 27 twice daily. (Psalm 27 prayer cards are available as a free service of Hineni. Be sure to avail yourself of them).
The theme of Psalm 27 can best be summarized by the passage, "One thing I ask of the L-rd. One thing I desire, that I may dwell in the house of the L-rd all the days of my life." We express our yearning to be connected to G-d and to live a righteous life.
We blow the shofar every morning for it serves as a wake-up call, proclaiming, "Wake up ye sleepers from your slumber and return to the L-rd your G-d."
PARSHAS RE`EH - THE LAWS OF TZEDUKAH
In Jewish life, there is nothing ambiguous about giving tzedukah. The laws of tzedukah are not a matter of personal preference, of likes or dislikes. We have definite obligations, and they are spelled out in this week`s parsha. The Torah teaches us that we should not harden our hearts or close our hands to the indigent -- that it is not only giving charity that is significant, but also the manner in which we offer it.
This is most unusual, because in most cases, the Torah focuses on the fulfillment of the mitzvah rather than on the manner in which the individual performs it. But when it comes to charity, we must be sensitive to the feelings of the needy who feel humiliated by the fact that they have to go begging. We have to give with with a gracious and full heart, and give again and again. Therefore, the words "Poseach tiftach" - : "Open your hand" are repeated twice in the passage (Deut 15:7)
The parsha teaches us that, in addition to monetary gifts, we must offer words of encouragement to the poor. Asking for help is a humbling experience, so we should do our utmost to lift the spirits of those in need. Our sages teach that for the monetary gifts that we offer, we receive six blessings, but for words of encouragement and comfort, G-d gives us eleven, impressing upon us that to revive broken spirits and to imbue them with hope and confidence is of the highest priority. Charity is such an integral part of our people that, throughout our long history, even the most impoverished community established charity funds, free loan societies, hachnoses kallah (helping poor brides) and bikur cholim (visiting the sick groups). Literally translated, the word tzedukah means "justice", teaching us that when we give, we are performing an act of righteousness. The Torah further commands us to tithe ten percent of our income. Significantly, the word "tithing" also spells wealth, assuring us that when we give tzedukah,, we are never diminished -- on the contrary, we become enriched.
We are living in very difficult times. Many families and individuals are suffering. Many have lost their jobs and cannot meet their obligations. The economic crisis has hit hard. The mandate of the Torah that we feel the pain of our brethren and open our hands again and again is a teaching that we should take to heart. "Charity saves from death...." As much as we give, let us increase our donations.
This Torah portion is dedicated in memory of