web analytics
July 28, 2015 / 12 Av, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


First Come, First Served

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.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “First Come, First Served”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
British Prime Minister David Cameron
Britain Warns Citizens Against Travel to Turkey, Fearing ISIS Attacks
Latest Judaism Stories
Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

Before going in, I had told R’ Nachum all of the things we were doing in Philly, and how it was very important to receive a good bracha on behalf of our newest venture, a Russian Kollel.

Q-A-Klass-logo

Question: When a stranger approaches a congregant in shul asking for tzedakah, should the congregant verify that the person’s need is genuine? Furthermore, what constitutes tzedakah? Is a donation to a synagogue, yeshiva, or hospital considered tzedakah?

Zvi Kirschner
(Via E-Mail)

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem

(JNi.media) Tisha B’Av (Heb: 9th of the month of Av) is a fast day according to rabbinic law and tradition, commemorating the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE by the army of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 CE by the Roman army led […]

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Devarim often parallels the stories in Bereishit but in reverse & can be considered as a corrective

‘Older’ By A Month
‘…Until The Beginning Of Adar’
(Nedarim 63a)

We realize how much we miss something only after it’s gone.

Because the words of Torah gladden the heart, studying Torah is forbidden when Tisha B’Av is on a weekday, except for passages in Scripture that deal with the destruction of the Temple and other calamities.

On Super Bowl Sunday itself, life seems to stop. Over one hundred million people watch the game. About half of the households in the country show it in their living rooms and dens.

Moses begins Sefer Devarim reviewing much of the 40 years in the desert & why he can’t enter Israel

While they are definitely special occurrences, why are they cause for a new holiday?

Torah wasn’t given to be kept in Sinai; Brooklyn or Beverly Hills-It was meant to be kept in Israel!

“When a king dies his power ends; when a prophet dies his influence begins” & their words echo today

In addition to the restrictions of Tisha B’Av, there are several restrictions that one may not perform during the week that Tisha B’Av falls in.

The word “shavat” in the first kina of Tisha B’Av morning indicates a sudden suspension and cessation of time that accompanied the Temple’s destruction.

The two decided to approach Rabbi Dayan. “What is the halachic status of conquered territory?” asked Shalom.

More Articles from Raphael Grunfeld
Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

Because the words of Torah gladden the heart, studying Torah is forbidden when Tisha B’Av is on a weekday, except for passages in Scripture that deal with the destruction of the Temple and other calamities.

Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

On Shabbat during the nine days, one may don freshly laundered clothes, eat meat and drink wine, including Havdalah wine.

The combination of the severity of the punishment and the ease with which the prohibition may be forgotten require that the smallest amount of chametz – chametz bemashehu – be prohibited.

If the sick person is thrust into a situation where he is compelled to face his sickness head on, we who are not yet sick can encourage him by facing it with him.

Less clear, however, is whether the concept applies to the area of civil law such as the law of transfer of property.

Conversely, no part of the Land within the boundaries delineated in Numbers 34 may be relinquished for any purpose whatsoever.

Although it is true that the Final Redemption will be accelerated when all Jews repent and accept the rule of Torah, there is also another scenario for the Final Redemption.

Should just a few communities settle the Land of Israel? Should there be a mass emigration of all Jews worldwide to Israel?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/first-come-first-served/2013/11/07/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: