Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8 )
Tithing - the practice of passing along a percentage of whatever we earn or receive to a worthy charitable cause - is an ancient and time-tested Jewish spiritual practice. This week's portion (Deut. 26:12) guides us to separate tithes to help support those in need. Tithing, and giving charity in general, is a great way of spreading goodness in the world, and showing our appreciation to God Who is the ultimate source of all the good we receive.
In our story, a kid finds out the secret of her friend's silent partner and learns a lesson in giving.
"THE TEN PERCENT SOLUTION"
"Keep on squeezing, Sue, I'm going to run to the store and buy some more oranges," smiled the exhausted but happy redhead. When Jackie and her friend first thought of the idea of selling freshly-squeezed orange juice to the people passing by on their way to work at the busy office park nearby their home, they figured it would be a fun way to wind down the last couple of weeks of summer vacation. If they were lucky, they would make a little bit of money. Little did they realize just how many of these commuters must skip their breakfast in the morning and how they would jump at the chance for a quick pick-me-up before going to work.
Before they knew it, the girls couldn't squeeze oranges fast enough - and at a dollar a glass, they were making what was for them some serious money.
Finally, around mid-morning, things started to slow down and the two partners got ready to go home. They rinsed off their equipment and their sticky hands and started to divide the day's profits. "One for you, one for me..." chirped Jackie cheerfully as she stacked up two growing piles of dollar bills.
Jackie's head was spinning with ideas about how she was going to spend her windfall - maybe that beautiful sweater she saw at the mall - but then she noticed her friend doing something strange. She saw how Sue would every once in a while separate a dollar from her pile and tuck it into a small manila envelope she held in her hand. If Jackie was one thing, she was curious, and she just had to know.
"Hey Sue, why are you doing that?" she asked, after finishing counting out all the money.
"Doing what?" Sue replied innocently.
"You know what I mean - why did you turn your pile of money into two?"
Sue felt a little funny to explain, but also knew Jackie well enough to know that there would be no moving on until she got an answer. She hemmed and hawed, and finally blurted out, "Well, if you really want to know, I'm putting aside some of the money for my ... partner."
"What? I'm your partner," Jackie retorted.
"Well I have an, um, another partner, but I don't have time to explain, and really have to run now." And with that she took her two piles of money and started down the street.
Who could this other partner be? Jackie realized she had a full-blown mystery on her hands, and she was determined to solve it. Waiting for Sue to get about a half a block ahead, she stealthily followed behind. Funny, if her friend was in such a rush to get home, why was she heading in the opposite direction?
Soon enough she got her answer, as she saw Sue make a sharp turn down an alley with a sign in front of it that said "Mount Sinai Jewish Orphanage." Jackie peeked her head around the corner, and saw her friend take the envelope stuffed with bills, and stick it into what seemed to be a hole in the wall! Jackie hadn't planned to let Sue see her, but this was just too wild. "Sue! What in the world are you doing?"
Sue nearly jumped out of her skin, but seemed to relax when she saw it was just her friend. "Jackie, why did you sneak up on me like that?"
"And who are you to talk about sneaking? I want some answers and I want them now. Who is this silent partner of yours, and tell me the truth. I just saw you sticking money into the wall. Are you in some kind of trouble or something?"
The last thing Jackie expected was to see her friend burst out laughing. "Oh Jackie, you've been reading too many spy novels. Come closer and take a closer look, you silly thing." Jackie slowly edged closer, and saw the hole in the wall was really a slot, and it had a small sign over it that said: "Orphanage Charity Fund. Thank you for your donation."
"Okay, I'm glad you're only giving charity, but I still don't get it. Why did you say that money was for your 'partner'?"
"Because it is. My other partner is God." Sue noticed her friend's eyebrows shoot up and went on to explain. "I mean, you know how we learned in school about tithing, how we can give back some of the good that God does for us by passing along some of it to the needy? So I decided that our unexpected profits were the perfect place to start and set aside ten percent of all the money and use it to help these poor orphans - as God's partner."
This was certainly not the solution to the mystery Jackie expected to hear, but it really did sound pretty good. Why not pass along some of what God gives us to others? Surely those kids could use it. And anyways, even with that she'd still have 90% left over, and more than enough for the sweater.
Jackie opened her wallet, counted out some bills, and asked her friend to drop them in the box for her. "If you don't mind, I think at least for now, I'd like to join up with your 'other partner' too."
Q. How did Jackie feel at first about spending the money she made?
A. She felt that since she earned it, she had the right to spend all of it on herself.
Q. How did she feel at the end?
A. She saw how Sue was putting aside ten percent and giving it to charity, and saw how she could help others and still have enough left for herself.
Q. What did Sue mean that God was her partner?
A. The idea is that whenever we try to do something, we can only succeed with God's help. Therefore, in a sense He was her partner, helping her along to succeed. It also means that God is the ultimate source of our wealth and shares with us money so we can do good deeds with it. By giving charity, we are partners with God in properly spending the money He gives us.
Q. Do you think a person loses out by tithing his money?
A. At first glance, it might seem he is ending up with less. But in fact, not only does the person gain the spiritual merit of helping others and becoming a better person by doing it, but in the end, God will even see to it that he gets paid back for what he gives, and then some.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Doesn't God have the means of providing for the needy himself? Why does He ask us to 'do it for Him'?
A. God certainly has the means to supply all of us with everything. By getting us involved with helping others, He is giving us the opportunity to develop a more giving nature, and through that become more Godly people. God rewards us greatly for every spiritual choice we make, so by giving us the chance to give, He gives us the chance to receive.
Q. If a person has no money to tithe, does he then lose out on the opportunity to give?
A. There are many ways to give, and not all of them involve money. One can give of one's time to help the needy, or even in his everyday interactions, with a smile and a kind word he can give someone something more valuable than gold.