Ahavat (ahavas) Yisroel
Handbook on Ahavat Yisrael and Tzedaka
The key to bringing Moshiach and redemption for Klal Yisrael is Ahavat Yisrael: love your fellow Jew as yourself.
But this can be harder to implement than one could imagine. In fact, because it is so vital to the redemption, the yetzer hara (evil inclination) tried that much harder to confuse a person and prevent proper expression of ahavat yisrael.
Imagine the following scenarios:
Your neighbor’s husband is coming home from a journey and she calls to ask if your husband could please do her a big favor and pick him up at the airport as she has no transportation. Your husband happens to have a very busy schedule that day and you were planning on spending some time together in the evening….this would definitely interfere with your plans together and you do very much need some privacy. Into your mind pops the thought “why did she have to call? Why can’t her husband just get a taxi? Why is she bothering us with these requests?” And a part of you feels guilty. After all, she does favors for you many times. It is only fair to help her out. And why should he pay for a taxi and waste money? You do have a car. Your husband is available to do the mitzvah. Should you make an excuse and ask her to try someone else? Or should you help her out?
Obviously if it is possible to help, you should help. If Above caused her to call you, perhaps this is a mitzvah your family needs to do. It is definitely a test to see how you will react. Even if unable to do the mitzvah of helping, at least you should not have an angry attitude to your neighbor for asking for help...
Suppose your son comes running into the house crying. When you ask what happened, he says that his friend punched him and hurt him. Your first reaction is to say what a terrible thing that was and what kind of kid is that to punch someone. What type of terrible middot does that kid have. What kind of family is he brought up in. And you may even tell your son to defend himself and fight back and teach that kid a lesson.
Then you think to yourself: is this the way I want to teach my son to react? To get angry at the other person and mention his faults? Or should I teach my son to look at this friend with compassion, to realize perhaps his friend had a bad day. Perhaps his friend is nervous and frustrated about something. Perhaps I could tell me son to forgive that boy and to understand maybe he was never taught proper middot, and maybe he is angry about something or jealous for some reason. I could even ask my son if he did anything to make the other boy upset. And if he says no, for no reason the kid hit him, then I should say to him “that is very sad. I guess we have to teach that boy to have better middot. We have to be an example to him. Of course if he hits you again and he is not nice to you, you have to stop him. I am not saying you should let yourself get hit, but you should try to look at him with a good eye. The Torah says to judge everyone favorably. Give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he had a hard day and was taking his anger out on you. But if it happens again, tell me and I will have to find out what is going on. ”
Your daughter has a delicious cupcake and your neighbor’s daughter walks in and is eyeing the cupcake. Your daughter does not want to share her cupcake. It is only one. She waited a long time for that treat. It is her prize for learning some Torah b’al peh. Your first reaction might be to feel upset why your neighbor’s daughter had to walk in at the moment! Well, your daughter does not have to share the cupcake. After all, she worked hard for that prize. You could tell her to quickly put it away and eat it later, when the neighbor leaves.
But then another thought enters your mind. Perhaps Hashem caused your neighbor’s daughter to walk in at the moment to give your child the opportunity to learn to really share and give. So you go to your daughter and whisper to her what a wonderful mitzvah it is if she shares part of her cupcake with her friend, even though you know how much she wants the whole thing. You tell her how much nachat and happiness she will give to Hashem when He sees her sharing something she likes so much. She teaches the yetzer hara to give that way.
You just went shopping, which was a big shlep for you, and you bought the groceries you need for that week. You bought two packages of noodles. Your neighbor suddenly rings the bell asking you if you happen to have some noodles she can borrow. She is in the middle of a recipe that calls for noodles and she suddenly saw that she does not have any noodles. Would you happen to have some?
You know that you are the only other person in the building who is kosher and Jewish and she does not have other people nearby to ask.
Your first reaction might be to make an excuse and say you don’t have extra noodles, you are very sorry, reasoning with yourself that it is so hard for you to shlep out and go shopping and you really don’t have time or energy. Your neighbor should have checked her ingredients before starting to cook.
But that would be lying. So should you tell her the truth, that you have noodles but you need them and it is very hard for you to shop? (of course if you really feel that way then you could say that to her)
Or should you lend her the noodles? Into your mind comes the thought that it is proper to lend her the noodles. You do have an extra package. Perhaps you bought if for that purpose because Hashem saw your neighbor would need to borrow some. And you can ask your neighbor to please replace them when she goes shopping so you wont have to shlep (but it is even nicer if you don’t ask her to replace them as she has little kids and shopping is probably hard for her too). And you really should lend the noodles with a smile. After all, if you do the mitzvah, do it graciously. And when you need to borrow something, hopefully people will lend you also.
You earned some extra money. You could use it to take a much needed vacation. Or to spend on something for yourself, to pamper yourself a bit. Suddenly you hear that someone in the community is in need of help. They desperately need money. The thought comes to your mind that surely the community will help and you don’t have to contribute much. Maybe you can give $5 as a token….just to show you join in the community mitzvahs…
But then another thought enters your mind. That money is not yours. Hashem gave you a gift. Perhaps, instead of spending it on yourself, you will put down the yetzer hara and you will give a nice portion of the money to help your fellow Jew. Wouldn’t that make Hashem happy? That is truly caring for another person, someone you don’t even know properly. It means having mesirat nefesh (self sacrifice) and giving up something you may want to do, but that is the ultimate service of Hashem.
You and your husband finally get a chance to go on a little outing together. You reserve a hotel room in a nice secluded island, planning to have a little vacation. But you hear about another hotel which is run by some Israelis and where many Jews stay. So you think to yourself : Should we stay there? Not only could we give parnassa to the Israelis, but we also may meet a Jew that we could mekarov or help.
Your husband says no, he wants a break. He needs a vacation. But you feel guilty. You cannot enjoy your vacation because you feel that you are missing an opportunity to help another Jew. And perhaps that is why Hashem guided your footsteps to that place.
In the end you stay with your husband but you dont enjoy the hotel because you feel perhaps you should have done something different. A Jew cannot enjoy something, even a vacation, if there is a mitzvah that could be accomplished and they ignore the chance.
So ahavat yisrael is not a simple matter. Every single day Hakadosh Baruch Hu gives us many opportunities to do this great mitzvah. But how many times do we fail?
How many times do we choose to be selfish, or to feel we first have to do this or that before we can help another person?
Ahavat yisrael means having mesirat nefesh for another person and really caring for that person.
There is no difference really between your child and another Jewish child. Yes, you have more obligation and responsibility to take care of your child because this is a neshomah Hashem put into your family, into your hands. But if you have a chance and the means to help another child, you also are obligated and it should be done with happiness.
Welcoming guests is another way to show ahavat yisrael. When you have guests you have to make them feel comfortable. Not just superficially. But they should feel part of your household. They should feel comfortable to eat and drink.
When you are a guest somewhere, you are often thirsty or hungry but you are too shy to ask for food.
Many hosts mistakenly assume as long as they give their guest something to eat, that is good enough. For example, perhaps your guest is arriving late at night. So you may figure that they are not going to be hungry at that hour. You will feed them in the morning.
But it is very possible the guest arrives very hungry indeed and did not have proper food on the trip. And perhaps the guest is fleishig so if you put out some dairy foods, that would be very uncomfortable. The best thing to do is to greet your guests with food and drink; preferably with something pareve if it is late at night. From experience I have seen that guests often do not want cake or crackers or things like that because those are foods they probably ate all the time on their journey. The want some sort of fresh fruits or vegetables, or a soup. Or perhaps even some protein like fish or eggs. Some type of a meal. Put it on the table and let them help themselves. They may protest that it is late and they are not hungry because they don’t want to bother you so don’t ask if they want to eat. Just put out some food and let them take. Encourage them to eat. That is true hachnosat orchim.
And don’t think to yourself that you are tired, this is such a bother….do the mitzvah happily. Think how you would feel and how you would want your family to be treated if they are traveling and are hungry. That is precisely why having guests is such a big mitzvah, because it is not always easy...... but it is a very important mitzvah.
When helping another person who has a problem, one has to put aside one’s personal needs and desires and go out of their way for that person. In other words, the other person should not be told to wait while you eat or take a walk etc. You should be there for that person. Sometimes a person, out of desperation, may wake you in the middle of the night just to talk about something that is bothering them. You should not make the person feel guilty or feel upset that your sleep was disturbed. Speak with them, talk to them. You never know whose life you may save.
I know once we made a mistake and called someone fairly early in the morning, not realizing the time difference. The person berated us for that, making us feel inconsiderate. They could so easily have handled the situation differently, by making us feel comfortable and simply pointing out gently the hour or not even mentioning it if it would be an embarrassment. Once you know someone did not do something on purpose to bother you, there should be no inyan of feeling annoyed with that person.
Judging someone in a nice way is another part of ahavat yisrael which is very challenging. It is so easy to criticize others. And often we make ourselves feel good by putting another person down.
It is so important to train ourselves, and to train our children, to see the good in others and give someone the benefit of the doubt, even when it is hard to do so. Even when that person may have hurt you. (This is one of the hardest scenarios).
When another person hurts you, it is very difficult to feel kind and loving to that person. Often thoughts of revenge pop into our minds. Or if we hear the other person has some difficulty we may even find ourselves feeling secretly happy….now that person will see how it feels to suffer. Such thoughts have no place in a Jewish heart or mind. But we are human beings and we fail. We do think like that at times. We do feel angry because our feelings were hurt. We feel upset if someone was not nice to us or not caring to us. We should pray that the person do teshuvah, but not for our sake. Not because our egos were hurt. But for the person’s sake, for their neshomah, for Hashem’s sake.
Being jealous of someone is not an expression of ahavat yisrael. If Hashem chose to bless someone with something, be happy for that person. Realize that Hashem knows what He is doing. He knows who to bless with what. And if we are jealous , we could cause judgment to take place against that person up in Heaven and could cause them problems chasve shalom. That is not what we truly want. We may wish to have what that other person wants, and therefore the idea is to pray that Hashem should bless us too. It says in Zohar when we see someone else who has a beautiful house, or lots of money, or good children etc. we should say Baruch Hashem, it should be good for that person and Hashem should give them more. We should bless them with even more. When Hashem sees that, He also blesses us. But if our attitude is to be jealous and to feel that person somehow diminishes from you, then we are not reacting correctly. Jealousy is a hard emotion to control but we have to work on that. We have to work on having a good eye, ayin tov, rather than a bad eye, ayin hara.
The key to success in everything is to realize that every day is simply an opportunity to do many mitzvoth and to correct and improve ourselves. If we look at each thing that happens in that light, as a test to work on ourselves, we will handle things in a much better manner.
Each day Hashem gives us many opportunities to do good, to help another Jew. How many times do we take those opportunities with joy, or do we sometimes look the other way? Or wish somehow we were not being disturbed?
It says in the Torah: Do not stand idly by the blood of your brother.
And Do not close your hand on your brother.
This does not mean only your flesh and blood brother, but it refers to every Jew.
If your fellow Jew is in trouble, is suffering, you have to help. You have to do whatever is in your power to help.
To turn your back or look for excuses is wrong. If you close your hand when your friend is in need, Hashem treats you the same way. Mida keneged mida. If you do not try to help, in whatever way you can (even to offer comforting words), you are not expressing ahavat yisrael.
Ahavat yisrael includes so many aspects to it. One has to join in prayers for a person who is ill or has problems. One has to see what he or she can do to help people who are going through difficulties, whether it is financial help, spiritual help, encouragement, emotional support etc.
One has to become sensitive to the feelings of others. One has to recognize if another person feels shamed or embarrassed or nervous or worried….we have to tune in to the other person’s feelings and see how we can help and never to become indifferent. Very often when things are good in our own lives we forget about the suffering of others.
For example, Jewish prisoners are often forgotten. We don’t think about or relate to the suffering they go through. We do not feel their pain. Therefore we do not know how to help properly. We have to feel another’s pain and empathize and see what we can do to alleviate some of the suffering, anxiety etc. A Jewish prisoner worries about his family: who will take care of them, look after his children, pay the bills if his wife cannot earn much money etc. etc.
Many problems put a strain on marriage. We always have to see what can be done to make life easier for people and to alleviate stress and worries. Just knowing you are not alone and there are people to turn to is so important.
And a person in need should never be made to feel ashamed. Sometimes a person wants to ask for help but is too shy. And if they finally do ask, they may be rebuffed or made to feel that the other person wants to check them out, to see if they really need help etc. Often a person is made to wait, or people never come forward to offer money or encouragement. I remember a case where a man was in prison and his family was desperate for some help. The man’s family turned their back on them and abandoned them. The community was reluctant to help, wondering why the man’s family was not coming forward to help. People would give a little but nothing substantial. This is NOT how things should be done. A suffering family or suffering person must be helped wholeheartedly, without being judgmental, and with true chesed. And so what if sometimes you may help someone who did not really need so much help? You still did your mitzvah and behaved with kindness. That will not go unrewarded. But if you do not help when you could, and you even add to the person’s worries, that is not at all expressing ahavat yisrael.
Giving tzedaka is a great part of ahavat yisrael. But do it in the best way possible. Really see what that other person needs. And do things in a way not to embarrass another
The Lubavitcher Rebbe was the ultimate example of true ahavat yisrael and chesed. He knew what to say to each person to bring that person to a higher level and to inspire the person the right way and to give encouragement and light to another Jew no matter what their problem. People felt the genuine love and care emanating from the Rebbe. He never said things to prove his point or to try to show he was right or the Torah was right. He said whatever needed to be said according to each individual’s position and situation.
Sometimes we argue in order to prove a point, thinking this is what the other person needs. But in reality that may not be what the other person’s needs. It may be what we need to validate our beliefs. But the other person may need a much simpler explanation of things or some space to grow and understand . Forcing our views upon another is not ahavat yisrael. Being a genuine example is.
When Jews have achdut and are united, no force in the world can harm them. That is why the yetzer hara tries so hard to bring division and to separate people: families, brothers, friends…..
In times when the Jews sinned, if they had achdut and ahavat yisrael, Hashem did not punish them the way He did when they were divided.
The second Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, and we are still in galut, because of sinat chinam, hatred for no proper reason.
It is incumbent upon all of us to work on strengthening ahavat yisrael and resolving (and avoiding) machloket and to bring unity among Jews.
Imagine your own children when they are happy, laughing and playing together in harmony. It gives you, as a parent, such joy.
When they fight it causes you pain. Our Father in Heaven is the same.
And of course when we truly have ahavat Yisrael, then we truly love Hashem also. The Baal Shem Tov said that if we love the Father, we will love the children. So to truly express our love of Hashem we must express our love to our fellow Jews.
And in order to implement this, we have to follow the teachings of the Alter Rebbe, the first Chabad Rebbe, in his work of Tanya whereby he explains that we have to ignore the body and realize the main thing is the soul. We may not like the character of a certain person, but we still have to realize he has a soul and his soul could be even loftier than yours. And we have to love him and care for him on account of his soul, and overlook his negativity and the body that separates. This is very important to keep in mind. Sometimes you see very obnoxious people with terrible behavior, but deep inside they possess a neshomah and can reach the highest levels and it is our job to see that good inside them and to polish those diamonds, to bring out the good. To find the precious gem inside the earth and clear away the dirt and make it shine. This is the task of each of us.
THE GIVING OF REDEMPTION
The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that his father in law, the Rebbe Rayatz, came to America not to receive, but to give. Even though it would appear at first glance that he needed money – and lots of it – from wealthy donors in order that he could establish and maintain his activities in the United States. Not true. The truth is that the Rebbe, leader of the generation, is the one who gives, not the one who receives. For this purpose, he is prepared to sacrifice everything for the sake of every single Jew. As the Rebbe said about the Rebbe Rayatz, he placed himself within every detail and every Jew, just as he would do regarding a matter of general concern. This means that he gave all that he had into the state of mekabel in order to give.
The Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, of blessed memory, expressed this point in her famous statement during her testimony for the court case on the s’farim: “Father and the s’farim belong to the Chassidim.”
We have seen countless examples of the Rebbe’s conduct over the years in great detail. Our eyes have witnessed how he devoted himself completely to giving and giving more to each person according to his state – not just Chassidus through saying maamarim and sichos, but also influencing them in their personal affairs. Whether he playfully waved a piece of lekach before a small child until he took it with his hands or gave out dollars on Sunday, he responded to each person in his own language with the greatest of patience.
We have been privileged to see the realization of the true love of the era of Redemption. This is also G-d’s conduct, as is written, “And you will be gathered, one by one,” i.e., the Redemption will be according to the state of each individual Jew. This is because G-d wants to give us Redemption, not receive Redemption, and therefore, no Jew will be left behind in this final exile. This is not like the Exodus from Egypt, where only a small portion of the Jewish people was redeemed, because then there was no giving of the Redemption, rather an action of Redemption on the part of the Giver, not the receiver. Chassidus explains that this is the reason why “the people fled,” and afterwards, there were forty years of ups and downs, because it all came from Above with no giving according to the state below.
Therefore, in order to merit the true, complete, and final Redemption with no exiles to follow, the giving must be according to the level of the recipient. As a result, the teachings of Chassidus were revealed to lead us along this path of Divine service – to think about the other person and to give and influence only according to his level. For this purpose, Chassidim passed up on the comforts of life, both material and spiritual. We all should be involved with the spreading of the wellsprings of Chassidus and preparing the world for the imminent arrival of our righteous Moshiach as we relinquish their personal desires, walking along the path of ahavat Yisrael, and bringing all our people together to the Redemption.
There are many tests in the matter of ahavat yisrael; many challenges to be dealt with each day.
Sometimes a friend, neighbor or relative does not want to lend you something so when they come to borrow from you, your first reaction may be that you also don’t want to give to show them how it feels like. This is not a Torah attitude. We have to give without consideration of the behavior of the other person. We are not to take revenge even subconsciously.
We have to constantly work on ahavat yisrael in all its ramifications.
It is very important to train one’s children in ahavat yisrael as well. If your child comes home crying one day because a friend insulted them or hit them etc. the usual reaction is to criticize the child who hit your kid. It is a natural motherly instinct. But we have to rise above our natural reactions and think more deeply and teach our children to think: is it possible the friend hit your kid because that friend has some problem at home? Maybe he is going through a difficult situation in his family? Maybe he is looking for some negative attention? Maybe he feels low about himself and in order to feel powerful he has to bully another kid? There are many ways you can try to judge on the side of merit.
It is important to question your child: Did you do anything to provoke your friend?
But if you see it really was not your child’s fault (at least as much as you can discern through your detective work!) then you should explain why the other friend may have hurt your child, but you also could tell your child to keep a distance from that kid, or to let you know anytime such a thing happens so you can take some positive action (such as speaking to the friend’s mother, if you think the family situation at home allows that, or you could even speak to the friend himself, telling him that you are sure something is bothering him or he would not have hit your child but it is not a mentchlich behavior, it is not ahavat yisrael and you want him to apologize for hurting your child). This also gives a subtle message to your kid about how to treat another person and how to avoid hurting another person.
It is important to not jump to your child’s defense while knocking down or criticizing the friend. You can and should defend your child, teach him how to protect himself, but not how to put down or berate the friend, even if that friend hurt him.
Teaching our kids how to react when hurt, embarrassed or shamed is very important.
Teaching our kids sensitivity is a lesson they can use for life. If you are sensitive to another’s feelings, you have gained a lot in life concerning building healthy relationships and doing kindness to others.
If kids in a class tend to make fun of one student, it is very important to teach your child not to participate in what the other kids are doing just to be accepted by peers. Your child should be taught to stand up for what is right and to take the side of justice and to show support to someone who is being mistreated. This teaches compassion, fairness and sensitivity.
If a friend’s family is not well off and you see the kids are missing proper clothing, think of a way to give clothing to the family without embarrassing them, and get your kids involved in doing these mitzvoth too, constantly training them to do things sensitively so as not to shame another.
True ahavat yisrael includes giving tzedaka (charity)in a way that respects the dignity and feelings of the recipient and that really looks into what the other person needs. Don’t be afraid to give. I always look at tzedaka in the same way I look at nursing a baby: the more you give, the more you get.
We have to live with that attitude.
True giving goes beyond doing what is comfortable. When it is comfortable then you are not growing. You have to go out of your comfort zone and do things with more mesiras nefesh. That is how you will progress spiritually and really reach higher levels of caring and ahavat yisrael.
It is easy to turn your back on people when you don’t feel up to having guests or doing a favor to someone. There are people who are so ‘busy” with their agendas and schedules that they feel irritated if someone asks for a lift to a place which is slightly out of their area. But next time someone asks you, stop and think Can’t you afford a few minutes of extra driving to help out a fellow Jew? It should not even be a question. That is how you will see more success in your daily activities.
Because when we do not do that favor that comes our way (and it is a sort of test) then we may find all kinds of extra aggravations during the day or that week. We never lose out when we go out of our way to help another . Hashem will remove many aggravations in life as a merit for that.
Since ahavat yisrael is directly related to the coming of Moshiach, we have to work hard on improving in that area. The beis hamikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam. It takes ahavat chinam to rebuild the third beis hamikdash. Let’s be the generation worthy to greet Moshiach! Increase in ahavat yirsael, in doing, in giving tzedaka and let’s pave the way for redemption.
Since we are talking about ahavat yisrael we need to include a talk about tzedaka:
You have to give to another person NOT because you want to get something back from Hashem. Many of us give tzedaka having in mind that we want this or that in return.
Yes, of course you can give asking Hashem to bless you with this or that (whether it is more parnassa, or a child, or health or whatever). That you can and should do.
But your main motivation for giving should NOT be only to get something and you do it basically out of selfish motivations. Your should be motivated out of a feeling of true compassion for the other person. You should feel the suffering or difficulties of another Jew and give because you truly want to help and make life easier for that person. You should arouse compassion for another Jew. And that in turn arouses Hashem’s compassion for us.
You should give because you realize and you understand that Hakadosh Baruch Hu blessed you with wealth or parnassa, not because you are superior or better than another person, but because He is trusting you to give to the other person. He is making you His shaliach to help that other person. The reason you have been given the blessing of wealth is for you to realize that wealth does not belong to you: you have it in order to share it. And you should not be afraid to give: the more you give the more you get. That is the rule of the world. Giving and sharing brings more blessings. Hashem created the world with chesed and in His kindness not only does He give us the zechut of doing a mitzvah and we take credit for that, but He even rewards us for it and blesses us with more!
If we make the mistake of becoming arrogant and feeling we deserve that wealth and looking down at another Jew or making that person feel uncomfortable when they ask for help, then we are missing the entire reason we have been given money.
If Hashem brings another Jew your way who needs help and He gives you the means to help, then it is your obligation to help. And do it in a nice way, an honorable way: never make the other person feel ashamed!
If you do not feel the pain or suffering of another Jew, you are lacking the main thing which is ahavat yisrael.
If you think that you deserve a beautiful big house and a fancy car but the person who is your neighbor does not because they are not rich like you and they are not working as hard as you, then you are lacking in understanding: you should look at that other Jew and think to yourself that maybe he needs a big house because he has ten children, and maybe he needs more money to help cover his expenses of food, rent , clothing etc. and if you are in a position to help and to make his life easier, that is truly feeling the plight of the other person.
That does not mean you have to go and buy a house for another person or buy him a fancy car like you have (although it would certainly be nice if you could afford to do so!). It just means you should never feel you are more deserving or you are more worthy or yo0u are somehow better. You have to look at every blessing you have as a gift that you are not deserving of: a true chesed from Hashem. And you have to realize that you have to give share and give to another Jew because that is why you are given blessings.
Also one should never think that his hard work brought him his wealth: it is ONLY the blessings of Hashem (of G-d) that bring success and wealth and one must recognize that and never forget it.
We have to make it a habit to constantly look and see what another person needs: what your neighbor is lacking, or what a poor person may be needing in life. We have to make it a habit to do good. Does your neighbor have many little kids and she is falling apart and needs money for a maid? Does your neighbor have no money for a car and you could afford to get him a car or pay part of the expense? So do it. Don’t sit down and calculate if he deserves it. Help him. Does your friend need parnassa? Give him a job , if you can. And if not, try to find him a job. Give him a loan if he needs help with something. And if he cannot afford to pay it back, don’t make him feel desperate or nervous. Let him take his time. Don’t bother him if he never pays you back either. As long as you do not need the money, and Hashem continues to bless you, be easy on your friend.
Did your brother fall upon hard times? Help him, take him into your business, share with him, make him feel dignified, don’t make him feel like a beggar. Have consideration and respect and sensitivity for another person. Family members are even more of a priority than strangers.
So the main thing is to not become arrogant with wealth. Realize why you were given this gift of wealth and the responsibility you have towards Hashem. Do not disappoint Hashem. He gave you that money assuming you will use it for good. Do not let him down.
But it does say if you are in a difficult situation you can test Hashem with tzedaka: you can tell Him you are giving such and such amount of charity and you are expecting such and such a blessing and with this tzedaka you are testing Hashem. This is the only thing you are allowed to test Hashem with. That is how important tzedaka is.
The Jewish people will only be redeemed in the merit of tzedaka.
If a person sees a decline in parnassa, the advice of the chachamim is to increase in tzedaka. That sounds strange: you have a hard time making a living and you should give more to tzedaka? But the idea is to open new avenues and obligations and when Hashem sees that He will provide the means. Tzedaka is the segula to bring parnassa and blessings.
And always remember: giving is the best way to refine your neshomah and your character. We are in this world to refine our animal souls and to become better people. Our natural tendency is to be self centered. The more we give and share and do for others, the more we get out of ourselves and become better people and the more nachat we give to Hashem, which is ultimately what our motivation should be: to give happiness to our creator and make Him proud of us, the same way a parent wants nachat from their children.
The more we give and become selfless, the better we are and the happier we are too. The idea is to become selfless and kind: to emulate our Creator.
Besides actually giving money, there is another type of chesed which is to cheer up another person, encourage another Jew, invite someone for Shabbat or yom tov, think about the person who is divorced, widowed, elderly and alone, or the person who is depressed and needs someone to talk to. Be available just to talk if somebody is down. There are so many ways to show chesed. Cook for someone who is ill or who had a baby…and do it with true care, not resentment. Drop by the new mother and see how she is coping with her newborn baby. Drop by to visit the old lady down the street. This is another form of tzedaka.
Giving food is also a great mitzvah for those in need. Sometimes food is even a more appreciated tzedaka since the recipient can use it right away.
It should disturb us when we sit at our Shabbat tables and we realize that a Jew in another home or even in another town is suffering in some way and cannot experience the true joy of Shabbat…whether it is due to lack of money or lack of health or lo lanu chasve shalom a tragedy they went through.
For example, some yidden are chasve shalom in prison. Who thinks about their families? Who understands how much the wife and children need a place to go for Shabbat or someone to be around to uplift them? Who feels the broken hearts of the family? The suffering they go through? You have to feel the pain of another Jew. If your heart is indifferent then you are not spiritually at a proper level yet. You should cry over the fact that you do not feel enough, that your heart is not warm enough. You should feel saddened and broken over the fact that you are not sensitive enough to another Jew’s suffering.
And truly increasing in ahavat yisroel will bring the redemption since one reason we were exiled was due to sinat chinam and there is no limit to how much chesed or tzedaka we can give in order to rectify that sin.
A person should not try to calculate exactly one tenth in order to give tzedaka. Give more. Give generously. In our generation the Admor haZaken says we must give a fifth to tzedaka (20%) at least. We need the additional protection of extra tzedaka. We are not on the spiritual level to suffice only with a tenth. We need to give more. And we should give generously. That was one of the qualities of the Ari haKodesh. He would put his hand in this pocket and whatever coin he pulled out he gave to a poor person: he did not look to calculate how much and if it was too much etc.
You really cannot give too much. The more that you give, the more Hashem will give you. Hashem will not remain in debt.
So let us learn how to give. The idea is not just to give: we have to know how to give. And we have to feel the merit we have in giving. We are not doing a favor to the poor person. He is doing us a favor by allowing us to do this mitzvah and gain merit. And ultimately the One Who is doing us this favor is Hashem , Who has chosen us to do this particular mitzvah thus giving us the merit for it. Hashem does not need us to do mitzvahs for Him: it is a privilege He gives to us, to connect with Him and to be rewarded in the future for our good deeds. We have to learn to appreciate every opportunity we get to do a mitzvah and look at it as a special privilege rather than a burden or something that we really have no time for but we force ourselves to do because we know it is good but we are not really in the mood…..that kind of attitude means we are missing a golden opportunity and we are not appreciating the blessings we have.
Even a poor person has to give some tzedaka; everyone has to learn to give. We are all created in the image of our Creator, to give and do good. We all must strive to become better people all the time.