The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

Charity in the Credit Crunch

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1.  This Thursday the Agudah rabbonim have called a day of prayer on account of the continuing and deepening impact of the recession.  With so many local families and institutions in financial difficulty, the rabbis urge us to pray for Divine compassion.

2.  At the same time, they remind us that those of us who are still blessed with jobs and sufficient incomes should be giving what we can to communal institutions and other tzedokohs.

3.  The concept of the tithing of income derives from this week’s parashah; at the end of a conversation between Yaakov and Hashem (Bereishis 28:20-22).  Yaakov says to Hashem, in essence, “if you are with me on my journey, give me food and clothing and bring me home safely, then I will give back one tenth of whatever you give me”.

4.  A strange way to talk to God.  Striking a bargain with God in this peremptory fashion is strange enough to begin with.  And to promise to pay the donor for a benefit conferred by agreeing to return one tenth of the benefit is strange enough to be going on with; how should that convince the donor to give?

5.  The practice of tithing is a recognition that everything belongs to and comes from God.  If we recognise the Divine origin of everything we have, we can turn to God with confidence and trust, and ask Him to continue His blessings; by promising to use them for good (a concept which includes, but is not limited to, setting a part aside for others) we are trying to make ourselves fitting recipients.

6.  In hard times when we are confronted by financial difficulties on all sides it is that much easier not to take our material blessings for granted; if realising our blessings encourages us to give increasingly generously to various causes, encouraged by the increased importance and potential impact of a small amount of money in troubled times, we can see why the rabbis have always stressed that the perfect Messianic world is more likely to emerge out of troubled times – nothing is more likely to lead to it than an enhanced sense of our responsibilities to each other and the importance of sharing our blessings.


Written by Daniel Greenberg

December 2, 2008 at 7:06 pm

One Response

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  1. For “Agudah” read “union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregation”.

    Henry Ehreich

    January 9, 2009 at 1:35 am

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