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Uteshuvah Utefilah Utzedakah


ותשובה ותפלה וצדקה
“Repentance, Prayer, and Charity.”

QUESTION: In all Machzorim the word “tzom” — “fasting” — is printed over the word teshuvah,” the word “kol” — “voice” — is printed over the word tefilah,” and the word “mamon” — “money” — is printed over the word tzedakah.”

Why is it necessary to explain that tzedakah means money — isn’t it well known?

ANSWER: When responding to a charitable cause, many (instead of giving according to their financial means) give according to a gematria — numerical value. They feel that the merit of giving “chai” — “eighteen dollars” — will assure them with “chai” — “a good life.” Therefore, the placing of the word “mamon” above the word “tzedakah” is to emphasize that a person should not limit his giving to a numerical value, but if possible he should give a significant amount.

A wise man once said, if one who wants “a good life” would contribute the numerical value of “mitah” — “death” — (455 = מיתה) instead of “chai” — “life” (18 = חי), he would definitely have a better chance to merit “chai” — “a good life.”

(שי לחגים ומועדים)

* * *

Alternatively, during the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur period of the year, people customarily give charity more generously than they would give throughout the year. There are many who graciously make magnificent pledges, but when it comes to redeeming them they are lax or find excuses not to pay. The word “mamon” — “money” — above the word “tzedakah” is to emphasize that tzedakah consists of money and not just pledges. To pledge is commendable but for the organization to exist and flourish, they must have your actual mamon — money.

* * *

A person who was very sick and obviously frightened said to his rabbi, “Pray for me, and if I get well, I’ll donate $25,000 to the synagogue building fund.”

Several months later the rabbi met the person on the street. “How are you?” he asked. “Just marvelous, Rabbi,” the other replied.

“I have been meaning to speak to you,” continued the rabbi, “about that money for the synagogue.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You asked that I pray for you and that if you got well, you would donate $25,000 to the fund for the new synagogue.”

“If I said that,” the former patient exclaimed, “then I really must have been sick.”

Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky has been a pulpit rabbi for over thirty years, and is author of more than ten highly acclaimed books on the Parshiot and holidays. His Parshah series, Vedibarta Bam, can be purchased here.
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