web analytics
March 1, 2015 / 10 Adar , 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
Some 1,500 teens from around the world at the Chabad CTeen convention hear a personal greeting from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 1, 2015.
Ban Ki-moon Greets 1,500 Jewish Teens at Chabad CTeen Convention
Latest Judaism Stories
Esther Denouncing Haman

Purim is the battleground of extremes, Amalek and Yisrael, with Zoroastrian Persia in between.

Niehaus-022715

One should not give the money before Purim morning or after sunset.

Mendlowitz-022715-Basket

The mishloach manos of times gone by were sometimes simple and sometimes elaborate, but the main focus was on the preparation of the delicious food they contained.

Winiarz-022715-Kids

Does Hashem ever go away and not pay attention to us?

In other words, the Torah is an expression of the Way that we must follow in order to live a divine-like life and to bond in the highest way possible with God or Being Itself.

The Chasam Sofer answers that one of only prohibited from wearing a garment that contains shatnez if he does so while wearing the garment for pleasure purposes.

The avodah (service) of the kohen gadol is vital and highly sensitive; the world’s very existence depends on it.

Moreover, even if the perpetrator of the capital offense is never actually executed, such as when the fatal act was unintentional, Kam Lei applies and the judge cannot award damages.

Forever After?
‘Obligated for Challahh and Not Terumah’
(Kesubos 25a)

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.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

“We really appreciate your efforts in straightening the shul,” said Mr. Reiss. “How is it going?”

This was a spontaneous act of rest after the miracle of vanquishing their respective foes. The following year they celebrated on the same days as a minhag.

The way we must to relate to our young adult children is to communicate with genuine loving-kindness

Jewish prayer is a convergence of 2 modes of biblical spirituality, exemplified by Moses and Aaron

In holy places it’s important to maintain a level of silence permitting people to dialogue with God

More Articles from Raphael Grunfeld
Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

Moreover, even if the perpetrator of the capital offense is never actually executed, such as when the fatal act was unintentional, Kam Lei applies and the judge cannot award damages.

Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

One of the purposes of the ketubah money is to make it difficult for a husband to capriciously divorce his wife.

A more difficult situation arises when there is no evidence placing the missing husband at the site of the death.

The court cannot solely rely on death certificates issued by non-Jewish institutions without conducting its own investigation into the facts of the case.

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.

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: