Share the Wealth

Thursday, 19 May, 2016 - 11:09 am

The Torah is the ultimate document of goodness given to us by the Source of all Good, Hashem. The wisdom and moral teachings of the Torah help us to combat the self-centeredness that can be natural to the human being. For example, in this week’s Torah portion the laws and practices of the holidays are enumerated. Somewhere in between the laws of Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah the Torah inserts a reminder about the Mitzvot associated with a farmer leaving crops in his field for the poor to gather. Similarly, in Deuteronomy, when speaking of the holiday celebrations and feasts we are cautioned to remember the widows, the orphans, the poor and others who may be needy or lonely.

Holidays are times when we are to “rejoice before the L-rd” with eating, drinking and family gatherings. If it is difficult to be poor, lonely or needy on any given day, how much more so at holiday time, when everyone else is rejoicing in the blessings with which they have been blessed by G-d. The Torah is teaching us that our celebration would be incomplete, indeed cruel, if we forgot those that were less fortunate than ourselves.

Teachings such as these have inspired the legendary Jewish charitableness that serves as a beacon of justice and light to a world that is sometimes quite narcissistic.  

Along comes the Rebbe and inserts an additional wrinkle to this idea of tzedakah and chesed. He explains that just as we must be sensitive to those have less than us in a material sense, including them in our holiday celebrations and caring for their needs at all times, so too must we be sensitive to the spiritual needs of others. There may be a Jew who did not benefit from the type of education or upbringing that inspired you to live an enriched spiritual life. Maybe you studied something or were motivated by a teacher or mentor to live as an inspired Jew, whereas the other fellow did not. Find that Jew and include him in your holiday celebration or enrich his life on any occasion that you can.

So on Rosh Hashanah, go out after services with your shofar to find people that weren’t in Shul for whatever reason. On Sukkot take your Lulav and Etorg and give others that opportunity to do the Mitzvah. On Chanukah bring the light of the Menorah to a Jew that may not have it on his own. On Purim bring your Megillah to Jews in a hospital, retirement home, army base, business or home and read it for them. On Pesach make sure every seat at your Seder is filled with folks who may not otherwise attend and celebrate. On Shavuot, make sure that every Jewish person, even small children and infants are in the Synagogue to hear the reenactment of the giving of the Torah. The same approach is applied to every Mitzvah and Jewish experience.

To quote the book Hayom Yom by the Rebbe, “The Alter Rebbe received the following teaching from the tzadik Reb Mordechai, who had heard it from the Baal Shem Tov: A soul may descend to this world and live seventy or eighty years, in order to do a material favor for a Jew, and certainly a spiritual one.” This, my friends, is what life is all about!

Congratulations to Torah Academy for a successful Shining Stars Auction event. Great job by Rabbi Yossi and Rivkie Chesney and the amazing crew of volunteers, donors, supporters and participants. Hope to have some photos next week. The future of Jewish New Orleans has been brightened thanks to your efforts! 

Shabbat Shalom 
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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