Parashat Re'eh: Spiritual Cleansing Our Money
The Torah in Parashat Re’eh discusses the Misva of Sedaka, charity, commanding us, "Do not harden your heart and do not close your hand from your brother the pauper. Rather, you shall open your hand to him…" (15:7-8).
The Arizal (Rav Yishak Luria of Safed, 1534-1572) revealed to us a number of important concepts that underscore for us the importance of this Misva. One of his teachings associates Sedaka with the story of Kayin and Hebel, the two sons of Adam and Hava. As we know from Parashat Bereshit, Kayin and Hevel both brought offerings to G-d. Kayin, who worked as a farmer, offered some fruit, and Hebel, a shepherd, sacrificed sheep. Kayin chose low-quality produce as his offering, and so his offering was rejected, while Hebel sacrificed the choicest sheep, thus earning G-d’s acceptance. As we know, Kayin was jealous of his brother, and proceeded to murder him. The Arizal taught that whenever we receive money, it is automatically infected by the Kelipot (negative spiritual forces) of Kayin. He was the first stingy person, who wanted to keep the best for himself and give only the lowest quality, thereby unleashing harmful forces into the world. These forces are injected into our money. Unless we "cleanse" the money to remove these forces, they are transferred onto everything we purchase with that money. All the groceries, appliances and services for which we pay become infected by these forces, potentially causing us great harm.
The way we "cleanse" our money, the Arizal said, is by giving charity, which has the effect of replacing the forces of Kayin with the forces of purity embodied by Hebel.
This is why charity is called "Sedaka." This word consists of the word "Sad" ("side"), followed by the letters "Kof" and "Heh." These two letters represent the names "Kayin" and "Hebel." Sedaka is so named because it eliminates the "side" of Kayin and brings in its place the "side" of Hebel, an element of purity and goodness, which brings blessing to everything we use our money for.
We might say that giving Sedaka is like immersing our money in a Mikveh. It cleanses our money so it will then bring us blessing, and not, Heaven forbid, the opposite.
The Torah here in Parashat Re’eh speaks of giving charity as the act of opening one’s hand: "…you shall open your hand to him." When we open our hands, we show our five fingers. The number 5 is associated with the letter "Heh," which stands for "Hebel." By giving charity, we "open our hand" – we connect our money to the pure, righteous soul of Hebel.
The story is told of a generous man who donated large amounts of charity, and he became wealthier and wealthier. People asked him how it was possible for him to be so wealthy when he spends so much money on charitable causes.
"It seems," he said, "that when I shovel out, G-d shovels in.
"And His shovel is a lot bigger than mine."
People are always looking for "Segulot" ("charms") for a comfortable livelihood. But the "Segula" that is most strongly rooted in our tradition, and which has been tried and tested time and time again, is giving Sedaka. Charity is the way we "cleanse" our money so it can bring us even greater blessings of prosperity.