"עשר תעשר את כל תבואת זרעך"
“You shall tithe the entire crop of your planting.” (Devarim 14:22)

QUESTION: There is a Midrash peliah — wondrous Midrash — which links this pasuk to the pasuk, “Im hasemol ve’eiminah ve’im hayamin ve’asme’ilah — “If you go left then I will go right, and if you go right then I will go left” (Bereishit 13:8).

What is the connection between these two pesukim?

ANSWER: In the alef-beit, the shin (שׁ) and the sin (שׂ) are identical except for the position of the dot on the top. If the dot is placed on the right side, it is read as a “shin” and if the dot is placed on the left it is read as a “sin.” Thus, when the letter "ש" is placed between the letters "ע" and ",ר" if the dot on top is on the right, it spells the word "עַשֵׁר" (asheir) “rich” and if the dot is placed above on the left, it spells the word "עַשֵׂר" (aseir) “a tithe.”

In a play on the words “aseir te’aseir” (עַשֵׂר תְּעַשֵׂר) — “you shall tithe” — the Gemara (Ta’anit 9a) says, “Aseir bishevil shetitasheir” (עַשַׂר בִּשְׁבִיל שֶׁתִּתְעַשֵׁר) — “Give ‘ma’aseir’ — ‘a tithe’ [and Hashem will reciprocate] by making you ‘asheir’ — ‘rich.’ ”

The wondrous Midrash, in quoting the pasuk “Im hasemol ve’eiminah ve’im hayamin ve’asme’ilah,” is alluding to this thought. It is telling us that, “im hasemol” — if a person will read the word with the dot on the left side — “asseir” (עַשֵׂר) — “give a tithe” — then “ve’eiminah” — Hashem will put the dot on the right side and the person will merit “te’asheir” (תְּעַשֵׁר) — “to become rich.” However, “ve’im hayamin” — if one puts the dot on the right side and thinks that “asheir” (עַשֵׁר) — one becomes richer by keeping it all for one’s self and not giving tzedakah to the needy, then, G‑d forbid, “ve’asme’ilah” — Hashem will put the dot on the left side and decree that “te’aseir” (תְּעַשֵׂר) — the formerly rich person will remain with only a tithe of his wealth.

(בינת נבונים)

* * *

An allusion to the concept of “Asseir bishevil shetitasheir” — “by giving a tithe one will become rich” — is also found in the pasuk, kaf achat asarah zahav melei’ah” — “one gold ladle of ten shekels filled” (Bamidbar 7:14). The word “kaf” (כף) in Hebrew also means “palm [of the hand].” The Torah is teaching us that “kaf” — the palm of the hand — “achat asarah” — which gives away one of ten — will merit in return, “zahav melei’ah” — to be filled with gold.

(בוצינא דנהורא לר' ברוך זצ"ל ממעזיבוז)


"וכי ירבה ממך הדרך כי לא תוכל שאתו כי ירחק ממך המקום אשר יבחר ה' אלקיך לשום שמו שם כי יברכך ה' אלקיך"
“If the road will be too long for you, so that you cannot carry it, because the place that G‑d, your G‑d, will choose to place His name there is far from you, for G‑d, your G‑d, will have blessed you.” (14:24)

QUESTION: Since it says, “Ki yirbeh mimcha haderech” — “If the road will be too long for you,” the words, “ki yirchak mimcha hamakom” — “because the place...is far from you” are a redundancy?

ANSWER: The Dubner Maggid explains the pasuk, “But you did not call out to Me, O Yaakov, for you grew weary of Me, O Israel” (Isaiah 43:22) with the following parable: Someone once sent a messenger to pick up a package. Afterwards, the messenger refused the payment offered, claiming that it was not sufficient for carrying the heavy bundle. In amazement the sender said, “If the package tired you, obviously you were not carrying my package. My package was very small and contained valuable gems.” Similarly, the prophet is saying to the Jewish people, “If you grew weary and became tired doing My mitzvot obviously you did not call out to Me, O Yaakov, i.e. they were not done for My sake — the sake of Heaven — because My mitzvot are a delight and not a burden.”

Our pasuk, too, is telling the Jews that “ki yirbeh mimcha haderech ki lo tuchal se’eito” — if one considers a Jew’s life of Torah and Mitzvot an arduous journey and a burden difficult to carry —the problem is “ki yirchak mimcha hamakom” — there is a great distance between you and “Hamakom” — Hashem (Who is considered “mekomo shel olam — “the place of the world” — i.e. He contains the world, rather than the world containing Him, see Bereishit Rabbah 68:9). Those who realize that Torah and mitzvot are valuable gems find it delightful to live according to Hashem’s Will.

(אלשיך)


"כי יהיה בך אביון מאחד אחיך...לא תאמץ את לבבך ולא תקפץ את ידך מאחיך האביון"
“If there shall be a destitute person among you, one of your brethren... you shall not harden your heart or close your hand against your destitute brother.” (15:7)

QUESTION: Why in the beginning of the pasuk does it say, “mei’achad achecha” — “one of your brethren” — while in the end it merely says, “mei’achicha ha’evyon” — “your destitute brother” — without the word “mei’achad”?

ANSWER: When Yitzchak lived in Gerar, Avimelech the king of the Philistines took Rivkah for himself as a wife, thinking that she was Yitzchak’s sister. When he learned that she was married, he reproved Yitzchak, “What is this that you have done to us? Kime’at shachav achad ha’am et ishtecha” — “One of the people has nearly lain with your wife.” Rashi explains that the term “achad ha’am” — “one of the people” — means “hameyuchad ba’am” — “the most distinguished one of the people” — the king himself (see Bereishit 26:10).

The wheel of fortune does not discriminate between prominent people and ordinary people. While people are usually more inclined to help a prominent person who is in need, the Torah has concern for all Jews alike.

Therefore, when this pasuk discusses offering aid, it talks of both “evyon” — a destitute person who is “mei’achad achecha”— among the most distinguished of all your people — and also “achicha ha’evyon” — the poor man who does not possess any specific qualities besides the fact that he is “achicha” — “your brother.” You should give generously to both of them.

(אמרי שפר)


"והעבט תעביטנו די מחסרו אשר יחסר לו"
“You shall lend him his requirement, whatever is lacking to him.” (15:8)

QUESTION: Rashi comments that if the poor man was accustomed to riding a chariot and having servants, it is your duty to help him maintain this lifestyle.

How does Rashi reach this conclusion?

ANSWER: In Hebrew the word for “rich man” is “ashir” (עשיר) and the word for “poor man” is “ani” (עני). If the letters of the word "עשיר" are spelled out fully — עי"ן שי"ן יו"ד רי"ש — the middle letters of each word together add up to 36. If the letters of the word "עני" are spelled out fully — עי"ן נו"ן יו"ד — the middle letters of each word together add up to 22. Consequently, the difference between “ashir” and “ani” amounts to 14, which is the numerical value of the word “dei” (די) — “enough.”

The Torah instructs us to give the poor “dei machsoro” — “whatever is lacking” — i.e. the equivalent of 14 — asher yechsar” — which he is currently missing due to his decline from “ashir” — “rich” — to the status of “ani” — “poor” — so that he may be able to return to the level of “lo” (לו) — “him” [self] — which is equal to 36, i.e., live according to his accustomed standard of affluence.

(בית יעקב - מסלתון)


"ורעה עינך באחיך האביון ולא תתן לו וקרא עליך אל ה' והיה בך חטא"
“And your eye will be evil against your destitute brother and refuse to give him; then he may appeal against you to G‑d, and it will be a sin upon you.” (15:9)

QUESTION: Why the emphasis on “achicha ha’evyon” — “your destitute brother.” It could have just said “beha’evyon”?

ANSWER: A story is told about a wealthy man who was once approached for a charitable contribution. He listened attentively and then said with a sigh, “Unfortunately, I have a very poor brother who needs much help.” The charity collectors took this to mean that he was helping his brother, and was therefore unable to extend himself for any other charitable cause. Some time afterwards, the poor brother approached these people for help, and they were shocked to find out that his wealthy brother did not help him in any way.

This pasuk is discussing a situation in which “vera’ah eincha” —a person will have a “bad eye” — about giving tzedakah in general — and he tells the tzedakah collector about, “achicha ha’evyon” — his destitute brother — as a way to avoid giving, while in reality, “velo titein lo” — he does not give to him either. The Torah warns us that ultimately the poor brother will complain to Hashem because the rich brother is not only failing to help him, but also making it difficult for him to receive other help. Thus, there will be a sin in him which may, G‑d forbid, have severe consequences.

(לחמי תודה)


"נתון תתן לו"
“You shall surely give him.” (15:10)

QUESTION: Why is the money given to the poor called “tzedakah” (צדקה)?

ANSWER:Tzedakah is one of the noblest mitzvot of our Torah, and everyone should make an effort to set aside at least ten percent of his earnings for charitable causes. The Gemara (Ketubot 67b) says that even one who wants to be extravagant in his giving, however, should still not give away more than one-fifth (twenty percent).

This is hinted to in the word “tzedakah” (צדקה): The numerical value of "ק" is one hundred, and "צ" is ninety. The numerical value of "ה" is five, and "ד" is four. If one has "ק" — one hundred — one should give away ten percent of it, leaving for himself "צ" — ninety. One who wants to be extravagant may give one portion from each "ה" — five — with "ד" — four — remaining, which amounts to giving twenty percent.

(מהר"ל)

The allusion to the giving of ten percent and twenty percent involves reading the letters out of order and is thus, hard to detect. Perhaps, this alludes to the teaching of our Sages that tzedakah should be given discreetly.

* * *

The following story illustrates sensitivity to the feelings of the needy:

In the 1930’s, along with the rest of the population, many religious families were affected by the depression. The Young Israel of Brooklyn, on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, gave out Pesach packages for needy families, and anyone who came and stood in line would receive one. My grandfather, Rabbi Tzvi HaKohen z”l Kaplan, was raising money to help a prominent needy family. Knowing that they would not stand in line, he sent his oldest son, Shimon z”l, to stand in line in order to get a package which he would then give to the needy family. The line was very long, and after Shimon had stood there for a long time, he felt very uncomfortable and went home.

When my grandfather asked, “Where is the package?” he responded, “The line was very long and I felt embarrassed, so I left.” My grandfather said to him, “I do not understand you. You are a yeshiva bachur and you have already learned about a ‘kal vechomer’ (a conclusion inferred from a lenient law to a strict one). If you, are embarrassed, knowing it is not for you, how much more embarrassment would it be for them to stand in line for their own need. Go back and bring home a package so that we can help them for Yom Tov.”

(שמעתי מדודי ר' שמעון ז"ל קאפלאן)


"נתון תתן לו ולא ירע לבבך בתתך לו"
“You shall surely give to him, and let your heart not feel bad when you to give him.” (15:10)

QUESTION: Why does the pasuk repeat “naton titein lo” — which literally means, “give, you shall give to him”? The pasuk could have just said, “tein lo” — “give to him.”

ANSWER: Some people experience a deep inner struggle when it comes to giving tzedakah. In their hearts they rationalize, “I worked very hard to earn this money; why should I give it away?”

The way to overcome this hesitancy is through “naton titein” — “continuous giving.” Thus, besides instructing us to give tzedakah, the Torah is also suggesting a method to facilitate our fulfilling the mitzvah. By continually practicing tzedakah, one will become accustomed to it and not only will the heart not grieve when he gives, but he will enjoy giving and putting his resources to good use.

(כלי חמדה)


"נתון תתן לו ולא ירע לבבך בתתך לו כי בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך ה' אלקיך"
“You shall surely give to him, and let your heart not feel bad when you give him, for in return for this matter, G‑d, your G‑d, will bless you.” (15:10)

QUESTION: The words “velo yeira levavecha betitecha lo” — “and let your heart not feel bad when you give to him” — appear unnecessary. It could have said, “give to him, for in return for this matter G‑d will bless you”?

ANSWER: The wheel of fortune once took a turn on an affluent person. Poverty and illness struck him and his family. When he visited a wealthy man in the community and poured out his bitter heart, the wealthy man was greatly moved by his situation and gave him a generous donation. After the poor man left his home, the wealthy man ran after him, and gave him an additional amount. In amazement, the unfortunate person asked, “You have just given me your generous support; why are you now giving me another donation?”

The wealthy man responded “One should give tzedakah, happily and benevolently. After all, the money a person gives is not his own, but something which Hashem entrusted with him. The first time I helped you because your plight affected me emotionally and I felt very bad for you. Thus, in reality the tzedakah was not entirely for the sake of the mitzvah, but to alleviate my pain. Now I am giving you a second gift simply for the mitzvah of giving tzedakah.”

The Torah is commending this approach to tzedakah by declaring, “Velo yeira levavecha betitecha lo” — “Your giving should not be because of the pangs in your heart aroused by the poor man’s story. If this is what provoked your giving, then ‘naton titein’ — give a second time — and indeed the second gift will be purely for the sake of the mitzvah and not because your heart grieved. For this exalted way of giving tzedakah, Hashem will bless you in all your work.”

(פנינים יקרים)


"נתון תתן לו...כי בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך ה' אלקיך"
“You shall surely give him...for in return for this matter, G‑d, your G‑d, will bless you.” (15:10)

QUESTION: What is “hadavar” — “the thing” — for which Hashem will bless you?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Bava Batra 9b) says that for giving tzedakah to the poor one receives six blessings, and for also saying comforting and encouraging words to the poor, one receives an additional eleven blessings. Unfortunately, some people give tzedakah grudgingly, and instead of saying comforting things to the poor, they make snide remarks which cause pain to the needy or they merely give without saying anything.

The Torah, therefore, instructs us that in addition to “naton titein” — “giving generously” — “lo yeira levavecha” — “let your heart not feel bad” — and cause you to say insensitive things or refrain from speaking at all when giving, “ki biglal” — “for in return for” — “hadaver hazeh” — “this [good] word” — which you will say to the poor, while giving them tzedakah — “yevarechecha Hashem” — Hashem will bless you with even more blessings than you receive for the actual giving. (See Bereishit 44:18, “yedaber na avdecha — may your servant speak — davar — a word.”)

* * *

King Shlomo says, “Tovim hashenayim min ha’echad asher yeish lahem sachar tov ba’amalam” — “Two are better than one, for they get a greater return for their labor” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). This statement can be explained as follows: There are some people who give charity without saying encouraging words to the poor. On the other hand, there are those who verbally comfort the poor, but do not extend any financial assistance. King Shlomo in his wisdom is alluding that, “Tovim hashenayim” — “Two” — i.e. doing both — giving and saying comforting words — “is better,” “min ha’echad” — than one — i.e. only giving or only saying words of comfort, for there is “sachar tov” — a reward of seventeen berachot (“tov” [טוב] has the numerical value of seventeen) “ba’amalam” — “for laboring both together.”

(בית יעקב, מסלתון, בשם מהר"י ז"ל סוזין)


"על כן אנכי מצוך לאמר פתח תפתח את ידך"
“Therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall surely open your hand.’ ” (15:11)

QUESTION: The words “leimor” — “saying” — and “pato’ach tiftach” — “you shall surely open” — seem to be superfluous? The pasuk could have just said, “Therefore, I command you ‘petach et yadecha’ — ‘open your hand’ ”?

ANSWER: According to Rabbi Yitzchak (Bava Batra 9b), one who gives money to the poor receives six blessings. One who comforts the poor by saying a word of encouragement receives eleven blessings.

The Torah is alluding here to the importance of speaking words of moral support and comfort to the poor. It is conveying the message that Hashem instructs us that in addition to extending financial assistance: “I command you ‘leimor’ — to say to the poor — ‘pato’ach tiftach et yadecha’ — ‘G‑d will help you and you will speedily be wealthy and you will generously open your hand to help the poor and needy.’”

(ר' ישראל זצ"ל מריזין)


"פתח תפתח את ידך לאחיך לעניך ולאבינך בארצך"
“You shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your poor, and to your destitute in your land.” (15:11)

QUESTION: When one opens his hand, there is usually nothing in it; should not the pasuk have stated, “You shall surely open your treasures”?

ANSWER: When the fingers of the hand are closed against the palm, it appears as though all four fingers are the same size. In a fully opened hand, however, it is obvious that there are larger and smaller fingers.

Unfortunately, among the people who give tzedakah, there are those who give every institution or needy cause an equal amount, without making a distinction between larger and smaller institutions, or between more and less worthy causes.

With the words, “You shall surely open your hand,” the Torah is conveying an important lesson on how tzedakah should be given. One should learn from the fingers of the “opened hand” that all charitable causes are not necessarily alike. It is important to measure and evaluate the importance and worthiness of each cause and institution and support them accordingly.

(שער בת רבים, בית יעקב - מסלתון)


"ושמחת בחגך אתה ובנך ובתך ועבדך ואמתך והלוי והגר והיתום והאלמנה אשר בשעריך"
“You shall rejoice before Hashem your G‑d, you, your son, your daughter, your slave, your maidservant, the Levite in your cities, the proselyte, the orphan and the widow who are among you.” (16:10, 14)

QUESTION: Why is this instruction mentioned for the festivals of Shavuot and Sukkot, and not for Pesach?

ANSWER: One Pesach Reb Chaim Avraham (son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chassidut) went to his brother (Rabbi Dober, the second Rebbe in the Chabad dynasty, known as the Mitteler Rebbe) to wish him a Gut Yom Tov. Reb Chaim Avraham related on that occasion that the Alter Rebbe had said, “On Pesach one does not offer a guest food or drink, but the guest may help himself” (HaYom Yom, 20 Nissan).

Since many people have personal stringencies on Pesach, they decline to eat outside their own homes. Thus, offering another person food might prove awkward or embarrassing.

Perhaps, the Torah’s omitting of gladdening the unfortunate and indignant on Pesach by inviting them to share with us in our festivity is a remez — hint — to the abovementioned custom.


"איש כמתנת ידו כברכת ה' אלקיך אשר נתן לך"
“Every man according to what he can give according to the blessing which G‑d your G‑d gives you.” (16:17)

QUESTION: The words “ish kematenat yado” — “every man according to what he can give” — appear to be extra. Why didn’t the pasuk merely say “tein kevirkat Hashem Elokecha” — “give in accordance with what Hashem blessed you”?

ANSWER: According to our sages (Eiruvin 65b) the character of a man is evident in three things: kiso — his purse, koso — his cup (drinking), and ka’aso — his anger. Thus, one of the ways to recognize a man’s true character is to observe the way he conducts himself with his money. Does he give graciously and with a genial disposition, or does he make the receiver feel unworthy and uncomfortable?

This pasuk alludes to this by telling us “ish” — [you can tell the character of] a man — “kematenat yado” — by the way he conducts himself when he gives, and particularly, if the amount he gives is “kevirkat Hashem Elokecha” — commensurate with the blessing that Hashem has bestowed upon him.

(ר' שמשון רפאל ז"ל הירש)


Maftir


וביום הבכורים ... והקרבתם עולה לריח ניחוח לה'
On the day of the first-fruits ... you shall bring a burnt-offering for a pleasing odor to Hashem. (Bamidbar 28:26,27)

QUESTION: The Maftir for all Yomim Tovim is from Parshat Pinchas (Bamidbar ch. 28) where there is a discussion of the offerings brought on each Yom Tov. On every Yom Tov there was a karban olah — burnt-offering. Why only in the case of Shavuot is the word “olah” (עולה) written full with a vav”?

ANSWER: The letter "ו" can be spelled fully in three ways:

1) ואו"," which has the numerical value of 13, the same numerical value as that of the word “echad” (אחד) — one. Thus, the letter "ו"represents Hashem, who is truly the only One.

2) ",ויו" which has the numerical value of 22 and thus represents the Torah, which is written with the 22 letters of the alef-beit.

3) וו"," having the numerical value of 12, and thus representing the Jewish people, who consist of 12 tribes.

The Zohar (Vayikra 73) says, “Hashem, the Torah and the Jewish people are all united as one.”

Shavuot commemorates the time of Hashem’s giving the Torah to Klal Yisrael. At that time the glorious unification of Hashem, the Jewish people and the Torah occurred. The extra vav in the word “olah” in connection with the Shavuot festival thus alludes to the lofty events that took place then between Hashem, the Torah, and the Jewish people.

(חקל תפוחין מר' מנחם שלמה זצ"ל טויב, מקאלוב)


וביום הבכורים ... ונסכיהם
On the day of the First-Fruits ... with their wine-offerings. (Bamidbar 28-26:31)

QUESTION: Why in the Maftir of all festivals is there a mention of “one goat for a sin-offering to atone for you,” but not on Shavuot?

ANSWER: In preparation for receiving the Torah the entire Jewish community underwent a process of conversion (Keritut 9a). Regarding proselytes the Gemara (Yevamot 22a) says that “a proselyte who converts is like a newborn baby.” A newborn is free of sin and thus, there was no need on Shavuot to bring a sin-offering to attain forgiveness.

(עיטורי תורה בשם ר' לוי יצחק זצ"ל מברדיטשוב)

Alternatively, the suspended mountain under which the Jewish people stood when receiving the Torah resembled a Chuppah — canopy — under which a chatan and kallah stand during the marriage ceremony. The giving of the Torah is analogous to a wedding between Hashem and us. He was the chatan and we were the kallah. We became betrothed to Him through the Luchot — Two Tablets — He gave us.

The Jerusalem Talmud (Bikkurim 3:3) says that on the day of a person’s wedding all his sins are forgiven. This applies not only to a chatan but also to a kallah. Since Shavuot is the wedding day of Hashem and Klal Yisrael, all the sins of Klal Yisrael — the kallah — were forgiven and there was no need for a sin-offering.

(בקדושת לוי על שבועות כתב כזה בנוגע ליו"כ)