Why Isn’t Charity Working?
A reader faithfully gives chomesh (20% tithe) for almost two years. Instead of the expected improvement in her finances, the opposite is happening. Why isn't it working?
The following question was posted as a comment in the article The Illogical Chomesh.
I have been giving Chomesh for almost two years now and I am losing money. I have followed the rules about giving to a family member who studies Torah and who really needs it because they don’t have any other source of income. On June 30th I had a certain amount in my savings, and today I have $586.51 less than what I had on June 30th.
The promise of Chomesh is that it’s the only thing where we can test G-d to see if He will send us a fortune (in money, not in other things). This is obviously not happening with me and it’s in fact going the opposite way. I am beginning to think that all of the jajamim [Editor: chachamim, wise men] who wrote about this are wrong. I feel like I was falsely led to believe that I would increase my monetary wealth by giving Chomesh, but that never happened. I feel desperate and I feel like a fool. I don’t regret helping my relative because they really need it, but this is causing me not to be able to save money for my old age or in case I lose my job. I am 56 and there are not that many job opportunities for someone my age.
I have inquired about this with several rabbis but nobody has an answer. I beg you to please help me make sense of this, and if you don’t know the answer, please refer me to someone who does.
The promise of wealth is very clear that it is for monetary wealth, not health or other things. Those are wonderful blessings, which I appreciate very much, but I started giving Chomesh to increase my monetary wealth.
Diana, thank you for your excellent question! I’m glad you asked, since you mentioned quite a few misconceptions in your question.
The answer has a few parts:
First off, if you notice the title of the original article is that if you lack money, give to charity. Granted that you don’t lack but simply want to save and increase wealth, then this formula of a chomesh might not apply to you in the same way you’re expecting. Someone will certainly not lack for giving charity, but it’s not a guarantee to increase wealth.
Secondly, in general giving charity is an excellent way to safeguard wealth, and even increase it. And in general the secret of becoming wealthy is specifically to give charity and especially a chomesh even if you don’t lack money – so it should still apply anyway.
The idea of charity increasing wealth is that by being merciful to others you increase mercy to yourself and save yourself from judgements which might decrease wealth. In addition, you show Hashem that you’re a good vessel to give to, because He wants chessed to be done for others and He can trust you to do it for Him.
So – why isn’t it working? Let’s explain the reasoning piece by piece:
If you are giving charity because you really want to help people, and you want mercy, then you prove yourself to be a worthy vessel for Hashem to give more money to. But perhaps someone wants to give a lot of charity so he can get rich, and perhaps Hashem sees that really the entire scheme is because the person loves money and, if given it, he will then become miserly and not give more charity! That wouldn’t be good for the person, so Hashem won’t do it and it won’t “work.”
Furthermore, the premise of “testing” Hashem also is specifically referring to someone who doesn’t otherwise have the money. You can’t lose from giving charity! One of the best ways to ensure you won’t become poor is to give charity. Hashem says “You wonder how you can give charity and make ends meet? Test me!”, but He does not say “You have what you need but you want more? Test me!”
There is also a concept that charity can cancel various evil decrees. So perhaps you don’t see much money coming in, but you have no idea how much money you should have lost, that now, you won’t…
Additionally, Rabbi Arush says that wealth comes in many forms and they are not all money. The merit of charity WILL make someone “rich” but that might not end up being seen in this world as the balance in their bank account. Certainly, these other forms of wealth are quite probably more precious in truth, and they certainly will bring happiness both in this world and the next – even if you can’t measure it in change.
Finally, everything but EVERYTHING runs on emuna. Rabbi Arush explains it like this:
When it comes to spirituality, you get what you want! Ask for everything, pray for everything, if you won’t give up, you’ll get it one way or another because Hashem always wants to give you spirituality and closeness to Him. There might be tests and trials and you have to stand firm, and you certainly need patience, but if you won’t give up, Hashem will give you!
But that rule is NOT true for anything physical. With gashmiut – physicality, the rule is “if you give me, if you don’t give me” as Rabbi Arush sings. Hashem knows what is best for us and we can certainly ask but mostly we just have to thank. While achievements in spirituality are always good for you by definition, with physicality we each have a purpose and a spiritual rectification to do in this world. Hashem knows what is good for us, and therefore, with regards to physicality, you don’t necessarily get what you want but only what you need to fulfill your purpose.
Hence, you can’t force Hashem’s hand or trick Him. And if you think that you can in whatever area, you are making it into an avoda zara, you’re making it into an idol with its own power – something that will “work.” You can’t do that with thanking Hashem to get what you want, and you can’t do that with charity, or anything else either. Once you believe this “thing” will get you what you want (in this case charity gives you more money) then you no longer believe in Hashem and trust His good judgement for you, so that is avoda zara, and that brings upon you MORE judgments, not less. Hence, by definition, it will never, ever “work.”
The irony is that when you give charity with happiness and emuna, you don’t need to search to see all the bounty Hashem gives back to you. But once you’re holding your account balance up to Hashem telling Him that He owes you, G-d forbid – you’ll always come up short.
To learn more about why things you want to “work” never will, please read The Wonders of Gratitude by Rabbi Shalom Arush – an entire chapter (Chapter 14) is dedicated to this topic.
This will also help clear up any questions you might have like “X gave lots of charity, and then became poor.” With emuna there are no questions – and without emuna there are no answers!!!
Rachel Avrahami grew up in Los Angeles, CA, USA in a far-off valley where she was one of only a handful of Jews in a public high school of thousands. She found Hashem in the urban jungle of university. Rachel was privileged to read one of the first copies of The Garden of Emuna in English, and the rest, as they say, is history. She made Aliyah and immediately began working at Breslev Israel.
Rachel is now the Editor of Breslev Israel’s English website. She welcomes questions, comments, articles, and personal stories to her email: firstname.lastname@example.org.