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Asking Others for Money

Asking Others for Money

A Yom Kippur Lesson

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This world is upside down. And we all know it. And yet when it comes to something so basic, people still continue to stun me.

I’m going to be blunt.

If you have money . . . it isn’t solely because you are great, talented, hard-working, brilliant or lucky. It is because, for whatever reason, our Creator felt that you should be blessed (or cursed?) with financial success in this lifetime. And in case you haven’t figured it out, it is because He is hoping you will make the right choices and do the right things with that money.

We have this false illusion that when someone gives money to someone else, the giver is the big heroAnd likewise, if you struggle every minute of every day trying to figure out how to cover your bills . . . if you hold your breath each and every time you swipe your card, praying it won’t be declined . . . it does not mean that you lack talent, ambition, drive, determination and work ethic.

Yes, there are those who have no money because they don’t do anything to attain it. Just as there are those who have money and have done nothing to earn it. But most of us fall in the middle. We work hard, we try, we reach, and yet some of us end up with a paycheck to match our input, and so many of us don’t.

But here is where things are really upside down. We have this false illusion that when someone gives money to someone else, the giver is the big hero, the generous one, the amazing one. And that poor, pathetic receiver . . . should just be grateful that someone felt sorry enough for him to help.

Upside down!

When someone asks you for money, the response ideally should be, “Thank you!” Thank you for giving me the opportunity to help. Thank you for allowing me to use my money in the way for which it was intended. Thank you for providing me a way to help another and recognize my blessing.

This is why we have an obligation to give ten percent of our earnings as maaser, which can’t even be translated as “charity” because it is not ours to begin with. The Torah teaches us that ten percent of what we earn, what we receive, does not belong to us. When we write those checks, give that money, we are not giving our money away, for it was never ours to begin with. When we give more than that ten percent, then we can feel proud of ourselves. Only then are we really dipping into our own bank account.

Yet, our Creator knows that things are twisted and turned. He knows that we have a hard time recognizing the gift and the blessing when we are given the opportunity to help another. And this is why we have the custom of asking for lekach on erev Yom Kippur. Before our holy Day of Atonement begins, we are to ask another for a piece of honey cake. We do not wait for it to be offered (as when we really need something, unfortunately, it is rarely offered on its own). We ask. We straight-out humble ourselves and ask for a piece of that cake.

We should all know what it means and feels like to be on the asking endWhy? Because we should all know what it means and feels like to be on the asking end. And the hope is that by asking now for something to eat, we should be blessed for a year when we will never have to ask. When we will never lack. When we will always have what we need.

And if that prayer is answered, and we truly do not need to ask throughout the year, let us never forget how it feels when one is on that end. And may we be blessed not only to not need, but to be able to realize and recognize the blessing when we are able to give. And not only to be grateful for what we have, but to be grateful to the one who asked, for he truly gave to us more than we are giving in return. For he gave us the opportunity to give.

May we all be sealed for a good and healthy year, and may we be blessed with abundance, and always use it for the right reasons and in the right ways.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Walter Austin March 31, 2015

I'm a University of Illinois Graduate. I used to own a 4000 acre farm. No more. Commodity prices (corn) have went from $8.90 bushel to around $2.75. The 4000 Acre farm is in receivership, and I'm in shock, food stamps in Illinois.

I have a friend who can help get me a $300 laptop. Should I ask him and maybe get mud in my face?

I have a job opportunity with it cause I'm database Engineer.

My friend drives a BMW. Should I ask him . . . Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman October 2, 2014

What if you don't have money? Many readers are concerned that because they are not major donors, they don't get all the honors and plaques and gold-plate dinners, etc., that the big money givers get.

When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, people would bring thanksgiving offerings. If you were wealthy, you brought a big fat cow. That was real impressive. If you were not wealthy, you brought two pigeons. Not so impressive. If you were poor, you brought some flour and oil. Nobody made a big deal out of that—except for G-d Himself. The Torah says that G-d considers the poor man's offering as though he had sacrificed himself on the altar. Not a big cow, not a pigeon, but his very self.

There's another the advantage the poor person has. The rich have to always be asking themselves, "Am I doing this for the right motives, or because I get so much honor for it? Or maybe because it makes me feel so important?"

The poor person, when he or she gives, knows that it's from the heart. And G-d wants the heart. Reply

Anonymous Delray Beach, FL October 1, 2014

I wrote this comment... October 5, 2011

... three years ago. No one has ever replied to it. So here it is again. Maybe someone will answer this time?
"But then why do we keep on honoring those who can afford to donate? We put up their names; we dedicate places and monuments to them; we call them up for aliyas. I live entirely on Social Security and savings and I don't ask for money, but I can't donate. How much do I screw up my relationship with G-d by not donating?" Reply

Anonymous NYC via chabadwestside.org September 28, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Hello
I don't think you messed up anything but if you start a small Pushka and give what's in your heart - every month those nickels dimes and pennies will add up. If that is difficult perhaps you can volunteer your time- giving is in through the heart and time is money and worth more I think because it's personal.
I wish you Shana Tova. Peace,long life,and health -prosperity is all I. How you look at things. May G-D grant you all Reply

Michael Taubenhaus October 1, 2014

I can't thank you enough! I have only recently been informed about chabad.org.
The articles are so genuine and make one feel good. I have been in a difficult situation for a while and have had to ask for help. I have always been ashamed and embarassed, as in the past, I always tried to help others. Your article has made me realise that I shouldn't be ashamed, and I thank you sincerely for that.
Shanah tova ve hatima tova to all. Reply

Ema Sunny Florida September 28, 2014

This is so very nice in many ways. Remind those that have that they are blessed. They should feel this blessing in a heavenly way. Not a material way where it is a bit too easy to turn away from someone who has less. I don't mean someone who is asking for money. I mean someone who greets someone who has more. And wants NOThing more in return than a friendly or civil greeting. I try very hard to be nice to everyone. Without looking at the fact that many have more and some have less money. And I could try harder to earn more. I chose to stay home with my kids for many years and didn't work. I try to be thankful for a modest and sometimes simple life. But don't complain becuase we live in a diverse Jewish community. Some are born into money and are very generous. This is a very special trait. Baal Chesed. I only wish for money some days to be able to give it away generously with no worries.. Shana Tova to all. Reply

Anonymous Nairobi, Kenya September 25, 2012

Giving Great article. We were learning about stewardship inour church and I love giving so much these days. G-d has opened my eyes to see the treasues hidden for those who are willing to give so as to receive. G-od loves a cheerful giver. Reply

Shoshana Pittsford, NY/USA September 23, 2012

Tears in my eyes, lump in my throat... When I had money, I gave so much I have nothing left, not even a car to get around. Its impossible to have a lifestyle in today's world without one, so I don't go anywhere or serve the way I used to unless I receive an offer for a ride by those who know my needs, who want me to be somewhere. Otherwise, I have been called a "beggar", other people feel uncomfortable for various reasons if I ask. So I don't ask. Right now I have to move but I have no means and I'm under the pressure of time. To ask for help is so hard. I don't know anyone to ask. But I see the principle you have outlined in your beautiful article. That's why I have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Thank you and G-d bless you more than He already has. Reply

C. Shulman los angeles, ca September 17, 2012

Thank You This is an absolute amazing article. Thank you for posting. Truth be told. Reply

Michal Germany August 20, 2012

Giving something away I improved on the subject during the last year. I know, 10% belongs to Hashem and to give that away, just makes me feel I do the right thing. When I give away more, Hashem does a miracle for me. I always have, what I need. Baruch Hu! Reply

Su Burke Glandwr, Wales August 20, 2012

Money I love G-d and He loves me. He put me on this planet and like a good father He makes sure I have what I need. It's totally His responsibility and He has never let me down. I only have to play my part and believing in Him and everything He says is my job. If He says give I must give; if He says go to Israel on holiday He will make sure the money is there to do it. For me it has been a delight and (strangely) an amazement how He facilitates my life-why I should be surprised I'm not sure! I know that obedience is the key to financial security in Him. You cannot serve two masters God and Money . I know which I trust more especially watching Money behave so (predictably) ridiculously over the last year or so. G-d is good! I have an income from renting bits of my farm that my ex unbeliever husband walked away from. The riches of the ungodly are surely stored up for the righteous (Proverbs / Psalms) All my large bills are covered every month one way or another. Reply

Goldiemae Omaha, Nebraska November 16, 2011

Tzedakah When I was just a child, I learned about Tzedakah or charity. In Sunday School we would give our pennies and dimes to the children in Europe during the war, and to the hungry and homeless in our country. I guess I grew up with the tenet that giving is living. Now as an adult, I am inundated every day with charity requests from various organizations, all of which are worthy causes. But as much as I would like to give to all who ask, it is not possible. So what I do is divide the requests in separate piles and each month I contribute what I can to each of them. The amounts are not great, but at least I did give something. I wish, however, that these organizations did not send me all those address labels, note pads, greeting cards, calendars, photo albums, tee shirts, tote bags, etc. Instead, they should use the money spent on those things for their worthy causes. It must cost them dearly for the postage. And it makes those who can't give feel guilty. Reply

Anonymous London October 8, 2011

Money Thank you for your lovely article which I had learnt from the Kabbalah Centre in London just last year. We learnt that if we give 10% or even stretch it to more, when we don't have it, then we may be able to rececive enough. But they are saying that point is not to give in order to receive. Whatever is the case, I am usually broke and have never had a proper holiday except once in the last 25 years. Not great with rituals and religion - Am still returning hopefully, to my roots. Reply

Anonymous Wayne, NJ USA October 7, 2011

Asking Others for Money I agree that it is a good thing to be able to donate without being asked. We try to do our share, but we get bombarded almost every day by Jewish charities asking for money. It becomes a problem to determine who to give to. Do you give something to everyone or do you just select a few that you feel are most worthy? I don 't know if worthy is really the correct word. Reply

Anonymous Delray Beach, FL October 5, 2011

But then why do we keep on honoring those who can afford to donate? We put up their names; we dedicate places and monuments to them; we call them up for aliyas. I live entirely on Social Security and savings and I don't ask for money, but I can't donate. How much do I screw up my relationship with G-d by not donating? Reply

Denise Canada October 4, 2011

Warrior Grandma and Sophia I am so sorry you are both going through such hard times. I hope that you enounter more generosity and kindness in the coming year.

A great article by the way. Reply

Michal Germany October 4, 2011

You helped me to get the real insight again. Dear Sara Esther, in theory I knew all, what you wrote, But by giving something regularly, I not only felt as a hero, on the opposite, sometimes I felt even robbed of my money, forgetting totally, that half of what I gave away, belonged to G-d. (I learned, 10 % belongs to G-d, until 2o % we are allowed to give.) It was needed. I felt like a hero, when I bought simpler food for myself. Now I feel sorry for it. Beautiful , that soon Jom Kippur is coming. - You helped me so much!!! be blessed for it and have a golden gmar chatimah in the book of Hashem!. Love Michal Reply

Chaya toronto, ca October 4, 2011

wow I read the first two paragraphs and it felt like i was hit! You nailed it right on target. I really appreciate the way you put it as I have issues with my maaser and you gave me that other angle to show me how important it is to give and be thankful that I am able to give even when times may be hard I can still give. Reply

Warrior Grandma Florida October 3, 2011

A very timely article - Charity & Giving to others I agree it is an honor for me to give money to help another. It's even more of an honor to give before someone has to ask .

Which brings me to my own little story of this past week. I started a fund raiser for my little grandson and his mom (my daughter) who are both victims of Domestic Violence and are fighting desperately to keep our little grandchild safe. We asked at least 1000 people to donate to the fund , many of them know the family or heard of the the situation.

Sadly, we rec'd very few donations. Even more sad is the fact that many of people asked to contribute choose to close their eyes, heart and their pocket to mother and child. Several of the generous donations that were made came from dear old friends and people whom I've never met. I am sorry so many people are missing this opportunity to give from their heart to the needs of a mother & child. I am humbled and appreciative of the few who gave so lovingly. Reply

sophia ny, ny October 2, 2011

money in todays world is very hard.when i work and seem to barely make the rent and at times dont have enought to even eat at the end of the month.im humble and i give when i can but when i have to ask it hurts but what hurts the most is when u ask to borrow from someone who makes a stipulation in the end in order for you to get what you need.it hurts even so much more coming from one of your own people.when jews start actling like pagans and turn to there evil impulses on there own people thats when we should daven even more that those who have fallen from ha-shem wake up and come back to torah and ha-shem and know that giving is from the heart Reply

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