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Buy an expensive menorah or give the money to charity?

Buy an expensive menorah or give the money to charity?

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Question:

I read on your site an article that suggested buying the best Chanukah menorah one can afford. I have a menorah, it is gold-plated, made in Jerusalem, and cost about $50. To buy anything better, anything more expensive, would have seemed self-indulgent; who would benefit but my own family and the shopkeeper? Surely it is better to give charity to those in trouble than to buy an expensive menorah for one's own family's enjoyment? Should our hearts not be for the poor?

Answer:

You are correct that giving charity is an extremely important mitzvah—in fact in many ways it is incomparable to any other mitzvah (see Why is charity considered the greatest mitzvah?). That is why the Torah obligates us to give maaser, at least 10% of our earnings to charity or charitable institutions. Someone who is even more charitable is recommended to give up to 20% of his earnings.

But this leaves 80% of our earnings for ourselves, and let's face it, most of our purchases are indulging our wants and desires (besides for our basic needs). From this money, Torah says, don't only spend on what thrills you, show that you love G‑d too, and love the precepts that He gives to you. The way we do that is by glorifying the beauty of the things that He has commanded us. Showing how precious the mitzvot are to us, by being willing to buy the best that you can afford, demonstrates that not only do you follow G‑d's will, but you appreciate it and are thankful that He chose you to whom to give the mitzvot.

Chana Weisberg for Chabad.org

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
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Chaim-Leib Nashville December 13, 2012

Re: Anonymous from Ramstein, Germany Absolutely that counts as tzedakah! You are a credit to the Jewish people and all humankind. In fact, the Torah considers you to have saved human lives, and not just for the ones who were sick. I learned from Rashi that one who loses his possessions is considered dead, and from the negative, we can infer the positive. In other words, one who restores possessions to another, or brings him back to a previous state of wealth has effectively given life to him. Finding lost family is also considered equal to saving lives, because when we see someone after more than 12 months without contact, we say the blessing "...Who enlivens the dead." In addition, the Talmud teaches that giving to needy Gentiles has an additional benefit of increasing peace between Israel and world. May G-d Almighty bless you, and increase your ability to give with both material and spiritual blessing! Reply

Anonymous Ramstein, Germany December 21, 2008

buying a menorah or giving money to charity? I almost never give to charitable organizations; however, I give to people I know who need help. I have paid for medical expenses and bought medicine for my friend who is HIV+ and have paid the rent for a friend with cancer. I also visit nursing homes and buy the residents personal items they cannot afford, or spend my money finding their lost family members. Does this count as charity? I am Jewish, but most of these friends I help are not jewish. Reply

Chayim December 18, 2007

To Chris Marshall Dear Chris,

I am awed and humbled by your suggestion. "Buy an expensive menorah and give it to another family." What a good heart you must have, and what an extraordinary person you must be, to have the wisdom to offer such brilliant insight in the context of a tradition not even your own. I pray that my heart be opened that I may learn from what you have suggested.

With gratitude, Reply

chris marshall December 15, 2007

a gentile view the answer says that the torah gives us permission to buy an expensive torah "glorifying the beauty...," but after you satisfy your obligations(10%, buy a menorah) do what is in your heart. if your heart says to you that charity precedes personal luxury then give. my personal suggestion is to do both. buy an expensive menorah and give it to another family.i am an outsider raised in cambria hts and i welcome the hassidum back, in fact i was saddened as a child when you left. i hope my comment does not offend. responses very welcome Reply

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