Spiritual Tools: The Three Weeks: The Greatest Power Part Two
We have been approaching Tzedaka as a from of empowerment to combat the weakness we experience during the Three Weeks (See “Spiritual Tools: The Three Weeks: The Greatest Power”): Rabbi Avira explained, “If a person sees that his financial resources are limited, that’s the time when he should be doing Tzedaka, and, so much more so, when he has abundant financial resources.”
It was taught in Rabbi Yishmael’s Yeshiva: Whoever shears away some of his money and uses it for Tzedaka will be saved from the judgment of Gehinnom. A parable explains this: It is like two ewes that need to cross a river, one that has been shorn and one that has not. The one that has been shorn makes it across, while the other does not. (Gittin 7a)
The verses in Lamentations describe our poverty just before the destruction of Jerusalem. Rabbi Avira teaches that giving Tzedaka, sharing, allows us to feel that we have what to share, and will grant us a sense of plenty that will lead to plenty.
Rabbi Yishmael taught how to use Tzedaka to overcome the devastating effects of God’s judgment against Israel that led to the destruction: Give Tzedaka as a way of shedding some weight! The Midrash describes how weighed down we were before the Roman attack by our standard of living, and our inability to live with less. Those who sheared their weight, so to speak, by accepting to live with a lower standard of living in order to be able to give more to Tzedaka, suffered less during the Roman siege.
Tzedaka also addresses the issue of experiencing the loss of the power of prayer, as described by Jeremiah, “You wrapped Yourself in a cloud that prayer cannot pierce (Lamentations 3:44)”:
Rabbi Elazar would give a coin to a poor person, only then would he pray. He explained, “The verse says, ‘I, by means of Tzedaka, am entitled to see Your face’ (Psalms 17:15).” [Bava Batra 10a)