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You’ve been too busy to open your mail. When you finally do, it is overflowing with bills and letters. Solicitation letters from the Jewish hospital, a gemach (interest-free loan fund), the yeshiva and the synagogue. As you walk into the great, resplendent synagogue, you are approached by a downtrodden beggar who solicits you for money. And as you look at the name plaques on the wall, you wonder whether that money should have gone to the needy and the sick. Should charity be prioritized according to the perception of need or is it first come first served?
All poskim agree that if you are as wealthy as King Solomon, you should respond generously to all worthy solicitations. But if you have limited financial resources, then according to many authorities the first check should go to those who are poor or dangerously sick. This takes precedence not only over the building of a synagogue but even over the building of the Temple.
Why did King Solomon not use King David’s gold and silver to build the Temple? Why did he lock it up in the Temple treasury and use his own money instead? Because, explains the Midrash, a famine had ravaged the land of Israel during the three years that King David accumulated money to build the Temple. King Solomon felt this money, which should have gone to save the lives of the hungry, was tainted. He did not want to build a Temple on the backs of the poor and hungry.
The Talmud Yerushalmi in Shekalim 15a relates that Rabbi Chama and Rabbi Hoshia were strolling past the beautiful synagogues of Lod.
“Look up,” said Rabbi Chama. “See how much capital my family has invested in this splendid synagogue!”
“And how many bodies has your family buried here?” responded Rabbi Hoshia. “ Were there no sick people dying in hospital corridors, or poor Torah scholars who needed help? ‘And Israel forgot its Maker and built palaces.’ ”
It is noteworthy that despite his opinion that the first check goes to those whose lives are at risk, the Maharam of Rothenburg, who was incarcerated for seven years in a German fortress because of his religious beliefs, refused to accept ransom money raised by his community.
The second check should go to the yeshivot and the third to the synagogue. If, however, the gemach is soliciting on behalf of poor but healthy people, or poor people who, though surviving, could do with more, then according to the same poskim the synagogue gets paid before the poor. So the order would be first the yeshivot, then the synagogue, then the poor.
The Vilna Gaon disagrees and maintains that the poor, even the healthy poor, always come ahead of the synagogue, so the order would be first the yeshivot, then the poor, then the synagogue.
The Aruch Hashulchan, however, suggests that where there is no synagogue in town, all would agree that building a synagogue takes precedence over charity to the poor but healthy.
Rabbi Shmuel Landau, in his work Ahavat Zion, suggests that Moses sought guidance on this very issue from God. “If we are to look after the poor,” asked Moses, “how will we have enough money to pay for Your Sanctuary?”
“By splitting your funds,” God responded. “The rich may not give more than this half shekel.” In this way there will enough money for God’s house and enough money for the poor. Yes, you must build a synagogue, suggests Rabbi Landau, but it is your duty to look after the poor. Neither has precedence over the other. The beauty of the synagogue lies not only in the splendor of its structure but also in the survival of its congregants.
About the Author: Raphael Grunfeld’s book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Moed” (distributed by Mesorah) is available at OU.org and your local Jewish bookstore. His new book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Nashim & Nezikin,” will be available shortly.
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Leading by example must be visible, regarding where, when and how-like Nachshon entering the Red Sea
Rabbi Yaakov Nagen, a Ram at Yeshivat Otniel, notes that the verse is suggesting that retelling the story of the Exodus is so important that Hashem is performing ever-greater miracles specifically so that parents can tell their stories to future generations.
Before performing the 10th plague God makes a fundamental argument about the ultimate nature of justice.
How is it possible that the clothing was more valuable to them than gold or silver?
Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.
“It means that the disqualification of relatives as witnesses is a procedural issue, not a question of honesty,” explained Rabbi Dayan.
Property ownership is an extremely important and fundamental right and principle according to the Torah.
The tenderest description of the husband/wife relationship is “re’im v’ahuvim/loving, kind friends”
And if a person can take steps to perform the mitzvah, he should do so (even if he won’t be held accountable for not performing it due to circumstances beyond his control).
Suddenly, she turns to me and says, “B’emet, I need to thank you, you made me excited to come back to Israel.”
Pesach is called “zikaron,” a Biblical term used describing an object eliciting a certain memory
Recouping $ and assets from Germans and Swiss for their Holocaust actions is rooted in the Exodus
Pharaoh perverted symbols of life (the Nile and midwives) into agents of death.
A more difficult situation arises when there is no evidence placing the missing husband at the site of the death.
When the inability cannot be clearly attributed to either spouse, the halacha is the subject of debate among the Rishonim.
The child of a Jewish mother from a union with a non-Jewish father is not a mamzer.
Although the conversion ceremony involves more than circumcision and immersion, these are the two essential requirements, without which the conversion is ineffective.
If a man dies childless, the Torah commands the deceased’s brother to marry his brother’s widow in a ceremony known as yibum, or to perform a special form of divorce ceremony with her known as chalitzah.
What if, at the moment of the late brother’s death, the surviving brother cannot effect yibum because the widow is a niddah?
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/first-come-first-served/2013/11/07/
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