"When you come to the
land which I give to you and shall reap its harvest, then you shall bring an
omer of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest: and he shall wave the
omer before the Eternal, to be accepted for you.”
As soon as we enter the land and have a good
harvest, we are commanded, not to collect as much as we can and hide it for
later, but rather to bring a measure to the high priest of our first fruits.
Contrary to inclination, we give away something that we own, something that we
value. We acknowledge that there is a Source of All, however we imagine it,
(knowing that none of our imaginations are up to the task). We affirm
that we did not make the land with our own hands, nor the seeds we sow, nor the
fruits we gather and glean.
Such an exercise as giving away the first
fruits prior even to tasting them oneself requires such detachment and
respect and is easier for some and very difficult for others. When giving away
excess becomes impossible, today we designate it as ‘hoarding.’ While
fruits can rot and people can wither, what in the end can we hold onto that
feels real and forever? Things.One reason people do the opposite of the
first fruits, why people hoard is that, while people are sadly temporal,
‘things’ don’t die. As a way of holding onto memories especially when the loved
one has passed, people tend to hoard. In some cases, the excessive inability to
release objects becomes a serious problem including both the physicality of
unsafe clutter as well as psychological impediment.
Additionally, people hold onto things
forfear of letting something go. There is a fear that you might want the
item back at a later time or the feeling of needing that item – so just keeping
it is theeasiestthing sometimes.
Judaism sets in place spiritual strategies to
help offset this human condition of hanging onto ‘things.’ The strategy to help
us is so important that the word for giving charity is Tzedakkah, a word linked
linguistically to tze-dek, righteousness. While it is understood that holding
onto things might bring comfort, the overriding Jewish teaching is to sustain
memory of loved ones through giving. In addition, giving to others is so
helpful, that according to teaching from the High Holiday literature, it, along
with prayer and repentance, has the ability to offset the sickness of
soul. Here are a few examples from our tradition on "anti-hoarding.”
- When we plant, we are
commanded to leave the corners un-harvested, so that a person in need could
collect food and survive.
- The Torah also calls
upon us to give ten percent of our income to charity through tithing. Leviticus 27:30
"And all the tithe (from the word for tenth) of the land, whether of the
seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Eternal’s; it is holy
unto the Eternal."
- It is customary, before lighting Shabbat Candles, to put money into a
tzedakkah box. This money is for the purpose of tikkun olam, the repair
of the world.
Certain kinds of tzedakah are considered more
meritorious than others. The Talmud describes these different levels of
tzedakah, and Rambam organized them into a list. The
levels of charity, from the least meritorious to the most meritorious, are:
- Giving begrudgingly
- Giving less that you should, but giving it cheerfully
- Giving after being asked
- Giving before being asked
- Giving when you do not know the recipient's identity, but
the recipient knows your identity
- Giving when you know the recipient's identity, but the
recipient doesn't know your identity
- Giving when neither party knows the other's identity
- Enabling the recipient to become self-reliant
The only way to feel wealthy is by giving
some away. May we all feel like we have enough to give something away,
and may we find the ways we give add length to our days, making them richer and
more fulfilling. Give it away, now – your smile, your kindness, your
companionship – and get back far more than you could ever imagine.