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Keep the Money Local

on Friday, February 3 2012. Posted by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
If I had a dollar for every email I received this week reminding me to recite the parshas ha’mann, as a segullah for parnassah, I would no longer need a parnassah.   You see in this week’s parsha, the Torah describes the miraculous, supernatural manna that fell each day from heaven, providing the Jewish people their necessary nourishment as they journeyed through the desert.  Many believe that if you simply say the words from our parsha describing this phenomenon specifically this week, your livelihood will be guaranteed, your portfolio will rise, that raise you have waited for will finally arrive and all kinds of blessings will flow.

Interestingly, this segullah, this association between saying parshas ha’mann and parnassah is found nowhere in the Talmud.  Instead, our great Chazal endorsed a different segullah for earning parnassah.  You may have never heard of it and tragically it isn’t nearly as practiced.  It is much more difficult than saying words, and it requires personal sacrifice, compromise and generosity.  Our Rabbis encouraged us that if we want parnassah, give tzedaka.  

Giving tzedaka is not simple.  How much?  To whom?  What are the priorities? The answer to these questions are complicated, complex and too lengthy for this space.  So, instead of telling you to whom to give, allow me to share my personal opinion of who to avoid.

One sign the economy is recovering slightly is the recent proliferation of people coming to collect.  Some go door to door asking.  Some sit outside the shul and accost each person as they go by.  And some have signs hung up around the community announcing they are here to consult, give blessings, dispense advice and actually ask you to come to them to have the honor of giving.  

In my opinion, our response to them all should be the same – a nominal amount.  We have incredible local needs and obligations including feeding 26 families on Tomchei Shabbos, a combined close to 3 million dollars of scholarships our school are giving out, our Mikvah, Eruv, supporting Outreach, and I haven’t even mentioned giving to BRS.  Our first obligation and responsibility halachically and ethically is to give locally.

A young man shared with me this week, that when he went to receive a bracha from a visiting Rabbi, he was told at the conclusion of the warm wishes that for them to occur he needs to pledge 5% of his income to this Rabbi’s institutions for the rest of his life.  Feeling hopeless and desperate for blessings in his life, he agreed.  When I heard, I was outraged and encouraged him to go back to this “Rabbi,” give him a nominal amount and tell him that is all he will be getting.  

Preying on vulnerable people, asking for large donations from those that can barely afford to cover their bills is contemptible, disgraceful and outrageous.  It is unconscionable to ask people who are not paying their own children’s full tuition or their family’s full membership to the Shul to make a donation to sponsor a child in your yeshiva in Israel.

If we continue to be indiscriminate in whom we allow to solicit from our members, both in the Shul and in private homes, individuals will be hurt and so will the community as a whole.  Rather than run for advice, promises and blessings from Rabbis who don’t share our hashkafa, know us, or our community, I strongly encourage you to embrace the bracha that comes from learning Torah from our own outstanding Roshei Yeshiva, Rabbis and guest scholars.  Indeed, in my opinion, the greatest blessings flow from those that don’t want their pictures on posters, don’t ask for money in exchange, don’t make promises that only Hashem can guarantee and don’t tell you what to do without even knowing who you are.

This Sunday, we have the privilege of hosting one of the greatest Talmidei Chacham of our time, a Rosh Yeshiva whose guidance, wisdom and halachik input is sought after by thousands around the world, Rabbi Herschel Schachter.  Rav Schachter is Rosh Yeshiva and Rosh Kollel of Yeshiva University and Halachik advisor for the OU.   He will be speaking at 9:00 am on the topic of “Segullas, Superstition and Ayin Ha’Rah.”

If you are looking for a segullah for parnassah, absolutely say parshas ha’mann and recognize that our livelihood is no less miraculous or from Heaven than the man itself.  But, don’t neglect our Rabbi’s advice of giving tzedaka generously and to the right places.  Don’t neglect the greatest segullah and the greatest source of blessing known to man, the study of Torah, the performance of mitzvos and the pursuit of justice.

Shabbat Shalom

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