One of the pillars of our Torah and ingrained character of our nation is the giving of charity. As Maimonides observed in the 12th century, every Jewish community that he had seen throughout the world had an established fund for the indigent. In fact, it is the only Misvah which the Torah records as having been performed by each of our Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
And so we read in this week’s Parashah, “You shall tithe all the produce of your fields.” Our sages famously interpret the unusual Hebrew wording to also mean, “You shall tithe, and through that become wealthy.” Accordingly, the Torah promises material wealth for tithing. One might think that by giving charity one is depleting his assets.
This is not so, says the Torah, giving charity does not impoverish, but on the contrary, one receives much more than he gives.
The Hafets Haim illustrates the folly of withholding charity with a parable.
A peasant brought his farm produce to the market, and in order to count the amount of bundles of each sale, he had the buyer put a small coin into a container for each bundle of grain that was delivered so that by counting the coins they would know the number of bundles purchased. When the buyer’s attention was diverted, the peasant stole several coins from the container, not realizing that with each coin he stole, he lost the price of a bundle of grain. The small gain by theft was far offset by the loss of payment for his merchandise.
A person might think that he is saving money by not giving charity, but in reality, it will result in a long term loss. With charity, as with other Misvot, making a short term expenditure is a wise investment to receive a long term gain.