You’ve been overwhelmed this week with the number of charities asking for your last minute 2018 year-end contribution. So here is my advice to you: Do not give charity. Rather, charity should always be something that just flows through you.
Giving charity means that you are taking something away from one place (your bank account) and putting it in another place (the recipient of your generosity). Your bank account has a limited amount of money and you try to allocate it in the best possible way. That’s very nice, but there’s a real problem with this attitude. If you view charity as a debit, then you will limit the benefits that it provides to you. I once made a pitch for a noble cause and the prospect told me “But rabbi, my kids have to eat”. Fair enough. They do have to eat. I didn’t push anymore. The problem is most people don’t understand a fundamental truth about life and money – charity is not a consequence of wealth, it is a cause of wealth. There is an unlimited amount of money in the world. If we view ourselves as end-users, we’re grateful that the money landed in our pot and we’re careful with how we dispense of it. If we view ourselves not as end-users, but rather as conduits through whom the money flows, then the more we distribute that money, the more money will flow through us. Limiting your charity – because of the perceived limitations of your wealth – means you’re actually sustaining those limitations on your wealth! Don’t “give” charity; just let it flow.
The best cause to give your charity to is the one that promulgates this very idea … the idea that human beings are not “end-user recipient pots” but rather we are conduits for energy to flow through us and on to others around us! We are conduits not only for the charity of our money but also for the charity of our talents, for the charity of our time, for the charity of our spirit, for the charity of our counsel … there is so much that each of us is blessed with … there is so much for us to pass on to others and make the world around us a beautiful place … and in turn, we ourselves become that much more enriched.
This Shabbat we begin the Book of Exodus, which marks the very beginnings of the Jewish People from our bondage in Egypt and the miraculous Exodus itself, to our Receiving the Torah and our journey to the Holy Land. In Hebrew, this Book is referred to as Shemot, which means “Names”. Pardon the pun, but why name the Book that describes our birth as a People with such a bland term – “Names”?? Exodus is more like it!
A name is not something that describes anything about the person themselves. Rather, it is the means through which the person can interact with others. Having a “good name” means that people think highly of you because of how you interact with them and how you choose to make a positive difference in the world around you. Shem is “Name” in the singular; Shemot is the plural, “Names”. The numerical value of the Hebrew letters that make up the word Shem is 340 – the exact same value as צנר the Hebrew word for conduit.
Name means conduit. And conduit is what being Jewish is all about.