7 min read
GOOD MORNING! What can you do to ensure that you have a portion in the World to Come? A wagon driver, a simple man, once asked the Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, this question. The Chofetz Chaim -- the greatest rabbi of his generation -- advised him, "Start a gemach, a free loan society." (The word "gemach" is an acronym for the Hebrew "gemilut chasadim" which translates as "doing deeds of kindness.") In Pirke Avos, Ethics of the Fathers 1:2, the mishna (teaching) states: "Shimon HaTzadik (the righteous) used to say that the world stands on 3 things: Torah, Prayer and Deeds of Loving Kindness."
The Talmud, Yevamos 79a, tells us that the Jewish people are known by 3 traits: merciful, morally sensitive and doers of kindness. How one expresses those qualities is only limited by his or her imagination, creativity and sensitivity to others' needs.
When one thinks of a Free Loan Society, he usually thinks of an organization which loans money interest free (the borrower gives monthly post-dated checks and has two guarantors). In South Florida, for instance, there is the Hebrew Free Loan Association, 305-933-1187 or HebrewLoan.org. (You can be a part of this mitzvah and every loan they make by sending a contribution to: HFLA, POB 630362, Miami, FL 33163). This fits right in with the highest level of Maimonides 8 Levels of Tzedakah (righteousness ... philanthropic assistance to others) -- to help a person before he becomes impoverished -- with a loan or by finding him a job or a business deal. Their motto: "To give people a chance to stand with dignity on their own two feet."
In Jerusalem (and many other Jewish communities), however, there are literally thousands of different types of Free Loan Societies. They even publish a directory! If one is having a simcha (a joyous celebration -- an engagement, a bris...) there are gemachs to borrow tables and chairs and even dishes and silverware! If it is Shabbat and the pharmacy is closed, one can go to a medicine gemach. Imagine the joy of being able to borrow the right power tool. The former mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lopiansky, started his career helping people with a gemach, Yad Sarah, for medical equipment including beds, wheel chairs and oxygen machines. Yad Sarah grew to a multi-million dollar institution helping people throughout Israel ... and Uri Lopiansky was drafted to be on the Jerusalem City Council where he eventually became mayor!
Bridal gowns are very expensive. One can borrow a gown, pay for tailoring, wear it, have it cleaned and return it. The Bridal Canopy is run by Rebbetzin Leah Tolwin, in Detroit. People come from all over the Mid-West. She has several hundred gowns. Stores and brides donate the gowns. (If you are interested in starting a bridal gemach or contributing to her gemach, you can call Rebbetzin Tolwin at 248-424-9244 or write her at LTolwin@aish.com).
In Pirke Avos, Ethics of the Fathers 4:21-22, the mishna (teaching) states: Rebbi Ya'akov said: "This world is compared to a corridor before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the corridor in order that you may enter into the banquet-hall." He then continues and says, "Better one moment of repentance and good deeds in this world than all of the World to Come; and better one moment of spiritual pleasure in the World to Come than all of the life in this world."
If one wants to talk about ultimate pleasure, it is in the next world. If one wants to talk about the opportunity to fulfill the Almighty's will, make the world a better place and perfect his own character, then this world is the place. In the next world there is no opportunity to do mitzvot (the Almighty's commandments) or to work on perfecting oneself or the world. What better way to have pleasure in this world and the next than to help others by starting a Free Loan Society?
The Almighty, Himself, says about Abraham, "I have loved him because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the ways of the Almighty to do righteousness and justice..." (Genesis 18:19). If you would like to know more about what the Torah teaches about kindness and how to help others, I highly recommend the classic and essential book Ahavath Chesed (Love of Kindness) by the Chafetz Chaim available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.
Terumah, Exodus 25:1 - 27:19
This week's Torah reading is an architect's or interior designer's dream portion. It begins with the Almighty commanding Moses to tell the Jewish people to donate the materials necessary for the construction of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary.
The Torah continues with the details for constructing the Ark, the Table, the Menorah, the Tabernacle (the central area of worship containing the Ark, the Menorah, the Incense Altar, and the Table), the Beams composing the walls of the Tabernacle, the Cloth partition (separating the Holy of Holies where the Ark rested from the remaining Sanctuary part of the Tabernacle), the Altar and the Enclosure for the Tabernacle (surrounding curtains forming a rectangle within which was approximately 15x larger than the Tabernacle).
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"Take for Me (the Almighty) an offering from everyone whose heart impels him to give" (Ex. 25:2).
Rashi, the great commentator, tells us that "take for Me" means that all donations for the Tabernacle should be given for the sake of the Almighty. The question: What difference does it make what a person's intentions are as long as he does a good deed?
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Chasman clarifies the role of intentions with an illustration. Suppose there is a man who wants to ensure that every child in the community has wholesome milk for breakfast. Rain or shine he delivers milk every morning. What would you say about that man? Likely you would count him amongst the great tzadikim, righteous people, a person of great kindness.
However, what would be your opinion of the man if you knew he delivered the milk only because he was getting paid? No longer is he a great tzadik, now he is just a plain milkman.
Similarly, in everything we do. If we keep in mind that we are fulfilling the Almighty's command to do kindness, even the mundane interactions at work can be elevated to a higher spiritual level. The bus driver is no longer just driving the bus, he is helping people get to work or to shop for their families. The deed may be a good deed with or without one's intention, but our growth in character and spirituality depend on our intentions!
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 5:47 - Hong Kong 6:00 - Honolulu 6:10
J'Burg 6:36 - London 4:51 - Los Angeles 5:16
Melbourne 8:05 - Mexico City 6:17 - Miami 5:54
New York 5:08 - Singapore 7:03 - Toronto 5:25
He who provides for this life,
but makes no provision for eternity ...
is wise for a moment, but a fool forever