Open Your Hand
Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8 )
Charity - giving generously to help those in need - is one of the most important Torah values. In this week's Torah portion (26:12) we learn about tithing, the giving of a portion of what we have to the less fortunate. The Torah way is not only to open our hearts to feel for others, but to open our hands and give.
In our story, a kid discovers that charity begins ... with him!
"Hey Freddy - hurry up, man! Don't you know that stopping for ten seconds means ten places further back in line?"
Fred knew. The Camp Idaho canteen was the most crowded and popular store and snack bar around. That's because it was the only store and snack bar around - at least the only one the campers could get to. During evening break tons of kids would rush in a mad dash to get there before the checkout lines got too long. Freddy was focused on getting in line, but something about the picture on the metal canister nailed to the light pole caught his eye.
"You go ahead, Jeff. I'll catch up." His friend gave him a stupefied shrug and went on his way.
"YOUR SMALL CHANGE CAN MAKE A BIG CHANGE IN HIS LIFE," said the caption beneath the picture of a sad-looking little kid holding a blanket. Fred figured out it was a charity box for an orphanage in the next town. It said how kids without parents lived very lonely lives and how giving charity to the orphanage would let them buy the kids nicer stuff and help them feel better. 'Wow,' he thought as he fished through his pocket, pulled out a quarter and dropped it in the box. 'Those poor kids must need this more than I do.' Just then, he saw a couple of his buddies, Mike and Dave, jogging by.
"Hey guys, check this out."
Hesitantly, they slowed down.
"What's up, Fred? We're in a rush to get to the canteen."
"Yeah, I know. But this is important. This is a charity box for kids without parents. How about each of you popping in a coin or two?" The two guys kind of squirmed.
"Yeah? That's sad. But, you know, I'm like broke now." Dave said.
"Me too," Mike added, "Gotta run." With that, the kids darted on their way.
The same scene happened with all the kids Fred tried to get to give charity and after a while he gave up and headed toward the canteen himself.
On the way he ran into his buddies again. Mike was licking a triple-dip monster ice-cream cone and Dave was straw-sipping a super-size slush, his arms loaded with the latest super-heroes series comic books.
"Hey, didn't you guys say you were broke?" Fred asked, annoyed.
"When I asked you to give charity you said you didn't have any money, but that stuff you bought at the canteen must have cost a bomb."
"Oh ... um, yeah ... I meant I didn't have like charity money ... you know." Dave stammered as the two of them quickly walked off.
Fred got in line and sighed as he watched all those kids who wouldn't put a dime in the charity box, spending dollar after dollar on stuff they didn't even really need. It looked like those poor orphan kids weren't going to have a better life because of this camp. Seemed the only thing the kids here liked doing less than giving charity was waiting in the huge canteen line.
Suddenly he got an idea. He turned to the last kid in line.
"Some line tonight, eh Sandy?"
"Yeah - a big waste of time," he frowned. "But what can I do - I'm addicted to raspberry-lime slushes."
"Listen, Sandy - how would you like me to wait in line and get it for you? You could just go relax back at the bunk and I'll bring it to you. I promise not to even sip it." The kid's eyes lit up.
"Yeah? You'd do that for me? Why?"
"Because it's a good deed to do favors, that's why. But," he smiled "it's also a good deed to give charity. There's a charity box hanging outside - for orphans. They really need money. Sooo ... I'm willing to wait in line and get your stuff for you, if you give me ten cents to put in the charity box for every dollar's worth of stuff you buy. What do you say?" The kid looked puzzled - but interested.
"Well, if you're straight - I mean if you're really going to give the money to charity, I guess I'm into it. Charity's good stuff, especially if it can get me out of this line." He reached into his wallet. "Okay, the slushes are a buck. I'll take two of them. That two dollars, right? And two dimes for charity." He handed Fred $2.20 and went on his way.
Freddy, smiling, took the money with one hand and tapped the next kid in line on the back to offer him the same deal...
Within a few days, thanks to Freddy's plan, the canteen line at Camp Idaho was much shorter, the charity box was much fuller, and Fred was much happier. Even though he was spending a lot of time on line, he knew the charity he was collecting was lined up for something good.
Q. How did Fred feel when he saw the charity box?
A. He felt bad for the poor orphans and he wanted to help them.
Q. How did he feel once he got his friends to give charity?
A. He felt great that he had done something kind.
Q. What life lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. There are many needy people in the world. If we are not needy ourselves, we should feel grateful and be willing to use some of our resources to help those who are.
Q. Why do you think Fred's friends didn't feel like they could give charity, yet didn't hesitate to spend on themselves?
A. It is human nature to want things for ourselves and to feel hesitant to share. However, we should remember that all that we have is a gift from God and He wants us to use part of that gift to give to others.
Spiritual Exercise: Today, give at least one coin to charity.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think it is a greater thing to give charity oneself or to encourage others to give as the boy did in the story?
A. While giving charity is a great deed, it is even greater to actively encourage others to give. One reason is that not only are we helping the needy, but we are helping the givers to do a good deed and become kinder people.
Q. Do you think it is fair that well-off people should be expected to share their hard-earned money with others?
A. While we are certainly allowed to enjoy the things we have, we should remember that all that we have is a gift from God. He does so with the intention we should help support the needy.
Spiritual Exercise: Today, give at least one coin to charity.