Kenneth Cohen

Pay Yakov Not Eisav

The Gemara in Masechet Brachot, makes an interesting observation. The subject of the Sotah, the woman suspected of being unfaithful, follows the commandment to give the proper tithes to the Kohein.

The positioning of these two apparently very different topics, do not seem to have much in common. The Gemara explains that if you do not do your duty and appear in the Temple with your obligatory donations, you will end up coming back with your wife, to verify her faithfulness.

The method of verifying the Sotah’s innocence, could only be done in the Beit Hamikdash. She needed to make an oath before the Kohein, and needed to drink that special concoction, in the Temple.

My dear cousin, Reb Dovid Leib Cohen, often made a related comment. He is a unique individual who has devoted most of his life to helping the needy. He has enormous experience in fund raising for his most worthy cause. A conclusion of his about Tzedaka is “If you don’t give to Yakov, you might end up giving to Eisav.”

Dovid’s point is that he has seen the foolishness of those who hold on to their money. Their lack of generosity, has a tendency to come back and haunt them. They do not have the faith to believe how much charity brings them protection. The “Eisav” of the analogy could represent sudden difficulties with the tax authorities. Or, it might be reflected in a string of unforeseen expenses.

Wouldn’t it have been better, that these expenses may have disappeared, has that person given the charity that he was supposed to.

This is what the Gemara is telling us as well. If you want to be tight fisted and miserly, you may end up paying a heavy price later. The Sotah situation was certainly extremely stressful and humiliating. And to think that this could have been avoided, had this husband simply fulfill his commitment to the Torah!

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