There are certain topics that no matter how many ideas and commentaries are written about them, are always important and enlightening. One of those topics is chesed.
We are living in a time of wealth and abundance, and one who is seeking help can usually find it. Jewish communities around the world do tremendous chesed and charity, and the list of donors and organizations is great. The Torah speaks of chesed in so many different places, and especially about matan b’seter, giving to others without the recipients knowing who really gave the charity. There is also another type of giving that is spoken of in the Torah, and that is the charity that begins at home.
We all like to have fame, respect, and recognition when we do something nice. We want to feel good. We want others to know who we are and that we are very generous. When we help out an organization, a shul, a yeshiva, or some other well-known group that is collecting money for a noble cause, we feel good if we have our name written on a wall or recognized in some other special way. We are happy and feel rewarded for our efforts.
How much recognition do we receive at home? At home we are usually taken for granted, and rarely do we get a “thank you” or have our name written on the wall for helping out our family members. I haven’t seen many kitchen walls with a dedication section or the names of all those who helped out in the home, especially for those who bring home a good salary and sustain the family with all their needs. This reality makes giving outside the home much more attractive. Therefore, I can understand those who prefer to help out and give lots of charity outside the home. The satisfaction of being appreciated is very fulfilling. However, the Torah specifies that the home is the first place that one should do chesed, and only after that should we look to help others.
There is also another form of giving, and that is to help someone stand on their own without having to give them charity every day. The list and rules of how and whom to give to are long and detailed. I would like to share a story of someone who gave at home in a very special way. I know of a young couple who are just starting out and are truly counting every penny to make it through the month. Their parents are not able to help them out in any way, and financially they are on their own. In general it’s customary for parents to help out their children for at least the first year. Now, this couple is in their first year of marriage, without any help from anyone, and carrying the financial load alone is not easy at all. To add to their responsibilities, they are expecting their first child.
Not long ago, one of the couple’s family members received a certain amount of money from some deal he had made a while back. This person knew about the situation facing the couple and decided that with the sum of money he had just received, he would help out this young couple. Although they were not his immediate family, they were still family. He had an old rundown apartment in his possession, and with the extra money he had just received, he decided he would fix up that apartment for them. He fixed it up and told them that they could live there rent-free for as long as the apartment would fit their growing family.
No ads in the newspaper were taken out nor was this amazing gesture talked about in the community center or in shul that next Shabbat. Other than the couple, no one knew about this wonderful chesed that was done by this amazing family member. However, I’m sure that Hashem in Heaven, who sees all and who sends wealth to whomever He sees fit, was tremendously happy. Who knows if that family member wasn’t sent that money only to help out that couple?
Money has a value and a limit. But chesed and the value of doing charity go far beyond the numerical sum of the dollars. I’m sure that this person who helped out a distant family member will receive a front row seat in Heaven with his name on it, right next to Avraham Avinu, who was the biggest chesed doer of all times. And to that I believe there is no comparison to any monetary reward received in return.
May we always be able to be among the givers and donors, and especially to our family members who might not always appreciate our help or give us the proper attention when receiving something that was done for them.