“For his wage he endangers his soul” – (Deuteronomy 24:15)
Giving charity creates a partnership between the giver and that which he supports.
We each have unique talents. Our job is to actualize our potential, elevating it to the highest purpose.
Successful partnerships are made up of individuals who each contribute their talents – what the other partners may lack. Together, they make the partnership stronger than the sum of its parts.
Some are able to contribute money, others contribute wisdom. When the partnership is aligned with a higher purpose, all forms of contribution are holy.
In L’M II: #46 Rebbe Nachman teaches that giving money to charity is a form of self sacrifice. He compares money to the soul – meaning that a person surrenders his soul by toiling to earn money – and when he then takes that money and gives it away, he is thus sacrificing his soul.
Earning a living requires the sacrifice of time, energy and sometimes even danger. A person thus “sacrifices” his soul to make money. So when a person gives away that money to charity, he is giving away a part of his soul.
In L’M #29, Rebbe Nachman states that “With every step a person takes and every word he speaks as he goes about his business, he should bear in mind that his goal is to make a profit in order to give charity. This is the comprehensive remedy for wealth. Giving charity expands and elevates the mind, which brings blessing and livelihood.”
And, in L’M #204 Rebbe Nachman teaches that “When you give charity to Torah scholars, the money becomes actual Torah. No negative action can extinguish the merit of giving money to Torah scholars. For no negative action can extinguish the Torah, and the money given to Torah scholars is actual Torah.”
Starting to give charity can be very challenging. It is human nature to focus on one’s own needs and to worry about one’s own future – to lock ourselves in a comfortable room, sit down on a lush couch with dim lights and eat hot food while watching entertainment – to fortify a bank account with enough to eliminate all needs and concerns for one’s great grandchildren. Our main task is to break this innate cruelty and turn it into kindness in order to give generously. This is the main idea of charity.
Charity has the power to generate blessings for new beginnings – to open and widen the entrance to a new endeavor. When a person wants to enter a pathway of devotion and service of the Source, it is necessary to make an opening in order to enter that pathway. All beginnings are difficult because it is first necessary to break through and open the entrance, which is very difficult. However, charity has the unique power of being able to open and widen the entrance further.
We are meant to be conduits of blessing into this world. To transmit the flow of abundance through us to others. Without a hole on the bottom of our cup, there can be no flow. Giving charity removes the blockage of selfishness, drilling a hole in our cup – welcoming abundance to course through us.
When a person is in need of love from the Source, the Source sends him an opportunity to show love to someone else. This is what makes it possible for the Source’s love to be channeled to the person himself, because “Everyone who shows love for the Source’s creatures is himself shown love” (Shabbat 151b).
Maimonides defines eight levels in giving charity, each one higher than the preceding one. On an ascending level they are as follows:
8. When donations are given grudgingly.
7. When one gives less than he should, but does so cheerfully.
6. When one gives directly to the poor upon being asked.
5. When one gives directly to the poor without being asked.
4. Donations when the recipient is aware of the donor’s identity, but the donor still doesn’t know the specific identity of the recipient.
3. Donations when the donor is aware to whom the charity is being given, but the recipient is unaware of the source.
2. Giving assistance in such a way that the giver and recipient are unknown to each other. Communal funds, administered by responsible people are also in this category.
1. The highest form of charity is to help sustain a person before they become impoverished by offering a substantial gift in a dignified manner, or by extending a suitable loan, or by helping them find employment or establish themselves in a business so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.
The wise hedonist who loves himself the most of all, should follow this sage advice and spend his life giving the highest forms of charity – attracting to himself the highest forms of love from above.
Support flows in two directions. At its potential, it’s a cycle – a relationship. If we are being filled up with light and strength – and by extension, so too are our families, friends, communities and beyond – it is in our best interest to look out for the source of our fuel. This is the key to charity. Grab the key.