Shomer Shekalim

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working for God Inc

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We’ve all done it one time or another.  A beggar sticks out a hand and you whisk by.  You only have ₪ 10 left and you can’t afford to give it right now.  But then another beggar comes, looking much more desperate than the last.  So, out of pity, you give that extra tzedakah that you’re not sure you can afford.

Or maybe it is a phone call you receive from a Yeshiva asking for money.  You know you should give, but it’s hard to commit.  After some clever begging on the Rosh Yeshiva’s part, you fork over some money.  Maybe you can afford it; maybe you cannot.

And it isn’t that you don’t give tzedakah.  You give to your shul, your Yeshiva, and your pet tzedakah that you admire.  But sometimes the requests are too much and you become annoyed that others are asking for money when frankly, you already gave your share.

But it does not have to be this way. Tzedakah does not have to be some pity and guilt contest where you weigh your needs against others.  Luckily, all you have to do is change your mindset pertaining to how to give tzedakah. 

When I make my monthly budget, I allocate the approprate amount for tzedakah.  While I look at my finances, not sad faces, I am able to make a rational decision as to how much I can afford to give.  I don’t designate the funds for a particular charity yet; I simply designate funds to be given to the Almighty.

From then on, I am the distributor of charitable funds for God Inc.  The Almighty trusts me to be his agent; my job is to find viable places to give His money.  I am not trusted with an unlimited amount of money, just the amount designated in my budget.  When a request comes, I don’t check to see if it is worthy of my money; I am checking to see if it is worthy of God’s money.  It’s no longer personal; it’s professional.  People who work for a foundation and distribute funds never do it personally.  They give what the foundation would want them to – they do not give less, they do not give more and they make sure that they give to the right charities that will use the money the way the foundation’s leaders would want.

Does this mean you shouldn’t give extra if you see a need?  Of course not.  There are some extreme times when you have to sacrifice from another line in your budget and have an “emergency budget meeting” with your partner in order to reallocate money in your budget.  But (1) this should be very exceptional and (2) you should not decide to reallocate your money without consulting your partner first.

Generally speaking, give once a month, give generously, and then stop.  For the rest of the month, you’re working for God Inc.  Good luck.

1 Comment

  1. It’s very simple:
    Make a spreadsheet with two columns, one for all the money that you receive (Column A), and one for all the money you gave to zedaka (Column B).
    Add up all the numbers in column A and multiply it by your appropriate zedaka amount (minimum and not including 10% up to and including 20%). Then subtract the total Column B from your appropriate percentage of A in another cell. That’s your “magic” zedaka cell that tells you how much you owe to Zedaka at any given point in time. You get a call from a charity, you look at your spreadsheet at your magic cell, and see how much you still owe Zedaka. If you have a lot in the magic cell, give however much you feel is appropriate to said charity calling on the phone. If you see your magic cell is at zero or better yet minus (the best type of minus to be in…zedaka owes you!) then feel confident giving a token amount (say 18 NIS) to the charity calling you, without any guilt as you know you’re fully paid up on your zedaka. You can even also confidently fall into minus as you’ll make more income soon which will rebalance your magic cell.
    The Chafetz Chaim mandates us to write down our zedaka and income so as not to error or guess on this penultimate commandment.

    I’ll remind everyone of a previous post I wrote regarding a real way to make money vis-a-vis zedaka:
    The Torah promises us 10 times back on what we give to zedaka at a minimum (100 times back during times of recession – Rashi to yitzchak planting me’ah shearim). If you give 10% of your $100 paycheck so next month you’ll be assured another $100, maintain the status quo. However I recommend giving at least a prutah more than 10% and here’s why: give 11% and next month you’ll receive $110. Give 11% on that $110 ($12.10), and next month Hashem promises you $121.00, hence real period-over-period growth continued for a lifetime. This is one reason why you can only give up to 20%, by the way, so as not to abuse the system.

    **Disclaimer: You may not receive actual cash back on your zedaka reflected in your balance book. Could have been your fridge was meant to break down, and Hashem “saved” your fridge from breaking down and hence your expense to fix it, for example. However, there’s only so many things that can break so many times, so it does ultimately ends up in your balance 🙂

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