What Benefits Will You Receive When You Give Tzedakah?

Acutally, the full title is “What Benefits Will You Receive? What Dividends Will Accrue, and What Return Will You Get on Your Investments When You Give Tzedakah?”

There is a wonderful story from Talmudic literature that answers this question most eloquently beyond The Big Four, namely: (1) Financially, if you give to a tax-exempt organization, you get a tax deduction; (2) psychologically, you feel good; (3) spiritually, you have a sense of meaning in your life, and (4) physically, you are invigorated.
The story goes as follows:

In the 1st century of the Common Era, there was a Jewish kingdom in a place called Adiabene in what is presently modern-day Iraq. King Munbaz II, son of Queen Helena and Munbaz I, did a most curious thing — he emptied the royal treasury and used the money for the benefit of his subjects who were in need.

According to one version (Bava Batra 11a), a calamitous drought had devastated his kingdom. Another text (Jerusalem Talmud, Pe’ah 1: 1) doesn’t record any specific stimulus, which would imply that King Munbaz had reached the stark realization that his subjects normally had enormous pressing needs. Whichever account you study, you can certainly understand that his relatives were not at all pleased with what he did. Here is their exchange with the king:

His relatives sent him a message, saying, “The generation before you accumulated even greater treasures than their ancestors. Now see what you have done! You have wasted both your own wealth and that of your ancestors!”

King Munbaz replied, “I have outdone them all.
“My ancestors accumulated earthly things; I have gathered things for Heaven….
“My ancestors saved money that did not pay dividends; my money is paying dividends….
“My ancestors stored things that could be stolen; mine can’t be stolen….
“My ancestors amassed money; I have collected souls….
“My ancestors hoarded things that wound up in the possession of other people; what I have done will always be mine….
“My ancestors held on to things for this world; what I have is being held in The Next World.”

Jewish tradition does not allow for giving away more than 20% of your income except in extreme and clearly-defined circumstances, one of them being that wealthy people may give away more. I suspect that the usual “maximum 20% rule” applies to us “regular people” and that somewhere, somehow, Munbaz had additional funds to provide for his own needs. However you choose to explain that aspect of the tale, Munbaz’s answers are eloquent, beautiful, and profound. They express the true benefits and dividends of giving Tzedakah.

About the Author
Danny Siegel is a well-known author, lecturer, and poet who has spoken in more than 500 North American Jewish communities on Tzedakah and Jewish values, besides reading from his own poetry. He is the author of 29 1/2 books on such topics as Mitzvah heroism practical and personalized Tzedakah, and Talmudic quotes about living the Jewish life well. Siegel has been referred to as "The World's Greatest Expert on Microphilanthropy", "The Pied Piper of Tzedakah", "A Pioneer Of Tzedakah", and "The Most Famous Unknown Jewish Poet in America."
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