What increases when given away?

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riddle

Experiencing reduced income? This what Jewish sages advise.

One who sees his livelihood diminishing should give charity. (Tractate Gitin 7a)

downwardThis is advice? It’s entirely counterintuitive! When surrounded by abundance, that’s the time to give charity, but when income diminishes, isn’t it prudent to give less of it away?

Tzedakah charity goes against the laws of nature. When you give away of something, it decreases.  Not so with money. The more you give it away according to the laws of charity, the more it expands and grows.

The salting of money is making it less.  (Tractate Ketubot 66b)

This means that if you want to preserve your money, keep on giving some to tzedakah. Because lessening it  makes it endure.

Giving charity is like salt; they both act as a preservative and condiment.

In  Elul we prepare for Rosh Hashana when Hashem determines how much abundance every one of us will have for the coming year. Now is a crucial and auspicious time to give charity and find favor with Hashem.

He who pursues charity and kindness will find life, charity, and honor (Mishlei 21:21) 

Increasing charitable gifts to the needy in  Elul sweetens the judgment of Rosh Hashana. In following the law of measure for measure, Vis-à-vis our compassionate giving, Hashem gives us a sweet, abundant, and healthy year.

The Talmud (Bava Batra 11a and 11b) tells of King Munbaz, who during a year of famine gave away all his money and his ancestors’ treasures to the poor. His brothers and family criticized his actions. But King Munbaz responded that although his ancestors  collected vast fortunes, he used his money more wisely. Here are some of his reasons.

  • My father amassed treasures down here; I’m collecting treasures on high by giving money away to charity. 
  • My father’s gathered it in a place where someone can steal it; I’m saving it in a safe place.
  • My father’s treasures didn’t accrue interest; my treasures do.
  • My fathers collected corporeal treasures; I’m collecting eternal treasures.
  • My fathers hoarded wealth for  their heirs; I’m saving treasures for myself.
  • My fathers stored treasures in this world; I’m storing treasures for the World-to-Come.

Munbaz was the king of the Adiabenian kingdom on the banks of the Euphrates, north of Syria at the end of the Second Temple period. The royal family converted to Judaism in the 1st century.

Queen Helena of Adiabene (Munbaz’s mother) moved to Jerusalem, where she built palaces for herself and her sons and aided the Jews in their war against Rome.

The Talmud relates that both Queen Helena and King Munbaz donated large funds both for the Bet Hamikdash and to the destitute people living there. 

King Munbaz
Sarcophagus of Helena, Israel Museum Photo Credit: Hanay - Own work

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