There Are No More “Poor” People in Lakewood

[COMMUNICATED] There is a famous quote that goes: “He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has.”Yitzy Katz* is a bright and happy child. Yitzy loved going to yeshiva to learn and would look forward to coming home and playing with friends. One day, Yitzy’s best friend Avrumi was outside riding his new scooter. Avrumi was so excited as he flew up and down the streets of their development. Yitzy was watching with his eyes wide open. “Avrumi, can I try it?” “Sure!”

Yitzy hopped on the scooter and took off. He was in heaven.

Later that evening when Yitzy came home he asked his mother, “Mommy, can you please buy me a scooter like Avrumi’s?” Mrs. Katz froze. How could she afford a scooter when she couldn’t even afford basic groceries. But, how could she disappoint her precious Yitzy. “I’m sorry Yitzy, not this month, but maybe soon.” Yitzy looked up at his mother and asked, “Mommy, is it because we are poor?” Not wanting her son to see her true emotions, Mrs. Katz forced herself to smile and said “Of course not Yitzy, we’re not poor at all, we’re very rich. We just don’t have a lot of money.”

What does poor mean?

Poor is typically used to refer to those struggling with financial difficulties, but is this the only kind of poor there is? On a technical level, poor is defined as deficient or lacking. People can be poor in many different areas just as people can be rich in many areas.

The Mishnah teaches us “Who is a rich man, one who is happy with his lot.” We’ve all heard this, and I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new. But, it helps to think about this every so often so we can put things into perspective.

Having money is not the only way to be rich. Children, family, achievements and knowledge are all areas where one can be wealthy. In fact, sometimes having less money can increase wealth in other areas.

In fact the Hebrew word ani means pained, not poor. We all experience pain in different areas, but pain doesn’t make us poor.

Each and every one of us was created with a mission and purpose in life. Sometimes that mission includes being more financially stable and sometimes less. But having more money doesn’t make us rich, it’s our attitude and outlook that defines wealth.

Why Did Hashem Create “Poor” People?

There is a fascinating discussion in the Gemara (Bava Basra 10a). The wicked Turnus Rufus asked Rebbe Akiva: “If Hashem truly loves poor people, why doesn’t he just support them?”

The answer is that poor people were created for all of us. Hashem wanted all of us to have the opportunity to support others financially. If we have a few extra dollars, it was not given to us for ourselves, rather we were given it to hold on to for Hashem so that we can give it to someone in need for Him.

If we think about this a little deeper we would realize that Hashem gives each and every person the financial support he or she needs. Some get it more directly, others a little indirectly, but at the end of the day there’s very little difference.

Part of our mission in life is to share what we have in excess with those who have less. We all have areas where we have more and areas which we have less. We are all givers and takers. This doesn’t make us better or worse, it makes us unique.

If we have some extra money, it’s not ours. Hashem is giving it to us to hold onto to give to someone less fortunate. It is our job to help out one another with anything we are blessed with, especially money.

The Building Blocks of Our Community

Tzedakah is a fundamental part of our community. It is one of the beautiful aspects of kehilla life that we look out for and care for one another. Ahavas Tzedakah, Lakewood’s premier Tzedakah which supports hundreds of local families is a primary example of what Tzedakah is all about. Over 800 volunteers from every neighborhood join in the bi-annual Block Campaign. They enlist the support of their friends and neighbors to help make sure every family can make Yom Tov the way Yom Tov was meant to be.

This defines what we are all about. We care about each other and understand that if we were given a gift it is for us to share.

How To Give?

Giving is not just about what we give, but how we give. When we properly understand what giving tzedakah is all about we understand how to give. We’re not helping a poor family. We are delivering the money Hashem entrusted with us to the rightful recipient. We may be on the giving end of things now, but we are often on the receiving end too. Therefore, we give in a way that we would want to receive. Ahavas Tzedkah’s unique system of providing recipients with generic cards that look like any regular debit card maintains the dignity of those we give tzedakah to. The person behind them in the store would not know the difference.

This is the greatest method of giving tzedakah possible.

Uteshuvah Utefillah UtZedakah Ma’avirin Es Ro’ah Hagezeirah

At this time of year we all cry out that Tefillah, Tzedakah and Teshuvah are the tools we need to use to eradicate a possible evcil decree and ensure a good, healthy, happy year. The clock is ticking and there is very little time left to take the opportunity to help families make Yom Tov. This is a sure way to fulfill the mandate of Tzedakah at this auspicious time.

Please, join us in the Block Campaign and together Let’s All make Yom Tov Again.

To join the Block Campaign please visit myblock.ahavastzedakah.com

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