Posts Tagged ‘charity’

Two Opposites and a Harmonious Resolution

June 27, 2009

Kabbalah teaches that the universe is built on a tripod, consisting of two opposites and a harmonious resolution. This is the pattern for everything in life. Stability and confidence is impossible without the support of all three legs of the tripod. We cannot have “shalom” without all three. This tripod – and its attendant challenge of conflict resolution – is inherent inside each one of us, in all of nature, of mankind as a whole, and in the spiritual realm as well.  –Korach (Numbers 16-18) Conflict Resolution

For the scholars of scripture they have an advantage over the rest of us. They have the time to think through some issues, take a step back, and perceive patterns that are opaque to us while we are in the trenches of the war of life. This week’s Torah portion is such an insight and when you think about it we can gain perspective on our lives, our community our country and the world.

I am struck by the conclusions to be reached by this statement. You see, if we are talking about a tripod, then if you take away any one of the legs it will fall. You might, as I did at first, focus on the harmonious resolution leg as the “most important.” Take it away and the tripod falls. For true harmony to evolve there must be recognition of discordant views. No two people (or for that matter two countries) can have identical views. Our thoughts, brain process, perceptions and conclusions are like fingerprints — they define us as unique individuals. So even if you say “I agree” you might find out sooner or later that you agreed with something the other person did not say or mean.

What this means to me is that for me to strive to live in a harmonious world I need to seek out both people who see things in similar ways to me AND people who don’t. I must engage BOTH the people who seem to agree with my world perspective AND those who don’t. Standing in the shoes of both “camps” is the only way I can perceive where there is commonality, conflict or room to compromise. With the recognition that life is a process and not a series of events comes the foundation of the process of harmony. Harmonious relations do not represent a static place of equilibrium, but rather a dynamic place of interaction, catalytic relationships and evolving development of ourselves, our society and our world.

Harmony and the whole tripod fails when we deny the existence of other points of view. If we deny the validity of other points of view we deny their existence and we deny the speaker the right to hold such views and express them. We take away one leg of the stool and the tripod fails — because there is nothing left to process toward a harmonious resolution.


The Cheerful Giver

March 1, 2008

2 Corinthians 9:6-11

The Cheerful Giver

The Torah and Haftorah readings this week are about making and creating things. Read carefully and there is a special message that is universal truth borne out by history hundreds of times: giving by freewill of your skills, your tools and your resources (including money) produces its own good results. 

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

It strikes me as odd that the very people who speak of the scriptures, the Bible, the Torah and the Koran, are often the same people who take the arrogant position that only they should decide who gets charity or assistance in times of need. This appears to be the position of the “righteous, or right-wing conservative”. 

This position is not righteousness, it is egotism. It also is ideology assuming the role of the adversary of Truth.  “Money bestowed in charity, may to the carnal mind seem thrown away, but when given from proper principles, it is seed sown, from which a valuable increase may be expected. It should be given carefully. Works of charity, like other good works, should be done with thought and design. Due thought, as to our circumstances, and those we are about to relieve, will direct our gifts for charitable uses. Help should be given freely, be it more or less; not grudgingly, but cheerfully.”

It is the poor and disadvantaged in our society who represent the purest soil to sow future benefits to our society. Opposition to secular policies that tend to redistribution of wealth on an even basis is flawed ideologically, religiously and practically. 

Opposition to government is mindless ideology, seeking to remove the referee, however imperfect it might be, between the followers of human nature who seek to accumulate great wealth at any cost, and the followers of the heart who seek a peaceful life of contentment.

Those who would replace most government policies with religious “principles” are coding their own ambitions to eliminate democratic principles and place themselves in despotic positions of power wherein a small group of people (usually white males) issue edicts on what is right and what is wrong, who can speak and who cannot, who is good and who is bad. 

It is the personal, greedy ambitions of the religious fundamentalists masking themselves with righteousness. Scott Peck had a name for them — “People of the Lie.” 

There is no difference for us whether we follow the ambitions of the those who hide behind religion or we follow the ambitions of those who hide behind some political ideology. 

Both require suspension of independent judgment. Both require that our society withhold proper education that would encourage independent, creative and innovative thought. 

Both appeal to our innate somewhat lazy wish to delegate the functions of governing our daily behavior to others who are “more suited.” 

The fact is that only one person can govern your behavior and decide between right and wrong in what you do or are about to do, about what you say or are about to say, about how you do charitable things and how you withhold charitable activities. 

That person is you, in the context of an ever-present higher form of intelligence and judgment. And the paradox is that by submission to a higher authority you regain and build upon your personal power — as long as you submit not to a human person but rather to a spiritual ideal.

Following your own sense and sensibility will result in reconstruction of the Temple, renewal of the Tabernacle, and finding the Ark. Each person carries that sacred duty to themselves, their family, their friends and their society.

Highest Form of Charity

February 2, 2008

Most people, including myself, consider tzedakah to be at its highest form when the donor and recipient are unknown to each other. Yet there is something even higher.

“The highest form of charity is to help sustain a person before they become impoverished by offering a substantial gift in a dignified manner, or by extending a suitable loan, or by helping them find employment or establish themselves in business so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.”

This is the act of parenting, befriending, and reaching out. It is the act of teaching what you know from the point of view of the recipient. It is my way of proving my own worth to myself, knowing that each day I have done something, said something or felt something that gets passed on, or “paid forward.” It isn’t enough to have the “audacity of hope” (which is the perfect starting point). We must act on hope and do things that bring our hopes and dreams into reality. 

The courage and commitment to act can be great or small. A gangly African American with the name of Barack (close to baruch, blessing) is at this time taking the ultimate leap of hope and faith and putting his life on the line for it. Most of us are not imbued with the ambition and fortitude it takes to do that unless the threat of extinction comes close. But we all have something of that in us and acting on it is what could make our society more ethical, more fair, with justice and sufficient resources for everyone. 

We have all learned lessons of faith and responsibility. We have all had our moments of truth where we shared our best thoughts for the best benefit of someone else. My prayer this morning is that we all do just a little bit more than we did yesterday, starting today, as our gift to G-d for this day and any additional days granted to us in this life. 

Charity and Prayer

December 22, 2007

I see the need for charity in the same light as my need for prayer. It is a form of meditating on my life’s meaning. The Rabbi’s teach us that a blessing need not be recited before giving charity or some other good deed because we should not delay one moment, even for prayer, when someone is in need. 

I give charity in many ways — through helping others through tough times, through donations of money, and donations of my time. The mitzvah that compels me to write is forgiveness and judging actions but not people. Who amongst us has not done something they wished they hadn’t? Who among the people who shout their condemnations has not themselves performed an act of perfidy that could or should land them in jail or prison? 

People in need include people who made mistakes. In some way every person in need got there by making some choices there were wrong or at least did not work out.  Reach out to someone in need. Find something more complicated than just writing a check. Help someone who maybe doesn’t “deserve” it because G-d judges people and you can’t. People are punished not because of who they are but what they did. And forgiveness is not the same as condoning. We forgive the person but never condone the behavior, if it was indeed wrong and not excusable.