Kenneth Cohen

Be Charitable

The Jewish people stand out as גומלי חסדים, those who do acts of kindness. A big emphasis of Moshe Rabbeinu was to remind the nation that they needed to be charitable and take care of the needs of the less fortunate.

There is a commandment not to send away our Hebrew slave empty handed. After being forced to sell himself into slavery because of his intense poverty, he should be sent away with dignity by his master. The Torah uses a form of the word, מענק, which means a kind of grant or gift.

We are also promised that if we give our tithes, we will always be blessed. The Rabbis learn from the words, עשר תעשר, that you should surely tithe, עשר בשביל שתתעשר, give your tithes in order that you will be wealthy.

We are never to feel that we will lack anything when we give ten percent of our earnings to charity. It’s as if we are being given a Divine guarantee that we will be rewarded for our generosity.

There are numerous stories about apparent misers and their callousness in not wanting to give Tzedaka. One such story involved Rav Yom Tov Heller, in Cracow.

There was a member of the community who received the name, “Shimon the miser.” When Shimon died, the townspeople decided to bury him at the far end of the cemetery, so as not to show him any respect.

Shortly after Shimon’s death, the townspeople no longer could go to the baker or butcher for food to help the poor for Shabbat. For years, everyone thought they had a generous baker and butcher. Only now was it revealed that it was Shimon the miser, who was the real contributor to the needy. When Rav Yom Tov Heller heard this, he made a request to be buried next to the Tzaddik, Shimon.

We are to give in a modest but generous fashion, without seeking praises or recognition.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at
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