The Weekly Parsha – Parshas Re’eh

Research finds that Jewish-American families are more likely to give to charity than those of other faiths.

This data is the product of a study by economist Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm, published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. After controlling for various factors that influence giving, such as income, education and family size, he found support for organizations focusing on food and shelter “does not vary across Christian denominations and nonaffiliated families in any notable way.” “However, Jewish families are both more likely to give, and, when they do give, give larger amounts,” adds Ottoni-Wilhelm, who is a member of the economics department at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

There is added significance to this study when factoring into the equation that America’s 5,425,000 (2012) Jews represent all of 1.73% of the US population. Yet Ottoni-Wilhelm was inclined to include this insignificant group in his research.

While the facts are out there, it is fascinating to reflect on why this trend exists among the Jewish people. Why are Jews more generous and philanthropic than any other group in the United States?

Perhaps a glimpse into this week’s Torah portion of Re’eh can shed some light on this phenomenon. In Devarim Chapter 15 verse 7, the Torah teaches. “If there shall be a poor person among you… you shall not harden your heart or close your hand against your brother… Give, you shall give him and let your heart not feel bad when you give him, for in return for this matter Hashem your G-d will bless you in all your actions and your every undertaking.”

The Torah gives clear instructions when it comes to taking care of the destitute: Give with an open heart. The Torah also promises G-d’s blessing for those who do give and do so willingly. Yet, the language is a bit unclear. Why is the Torah redundant in the commandment of giving charity, as it says “give, you shall give”? 

Rashi points out that the compounded verb tells us to give again and again and not lose patience. The Ibn Ezra comments that the Torah is pointing out the benefits of giving charity by saying “give,” and if you give then the Almighty will give to you. The Torah is teaching us that one who gives charity and parts with his or her money is not losing out at all. On the contrary, giving charity is a method of ensuring an adequate livelihood. In fact, our sages point out that the Hebrew word “nosain,” or give, is comprised of three letters – nun, taf, nun; it is a palindrome that can be read the same way both forwards and backwards. This is indicative of the reciprocity in giving charity: one who gives receives the Almighty’s blessings in return.

Perhaps the Jews’ spiritual subconscious nurtures this concept of giving charity, not feeling the financial loss, but rather the spiritual gains and divine blessing.

So go ahead and open your hearts and hands and give some charity. Oh, and if you are looking for a worthy cause I can’t think of a better recipient than !!!  Moshiach NOW!!!