Whew! If you look at my recent posts, you certainly get a sense of just how all over the place my life has been lately.
My friend, poetess, and fellow blogger, Havaya, quotes the Talmud in Bava Kama 92a on this week’s parsha (Ki Tavo) to make a fascinating point:
The Kohanim, she explains, would return the gold and silver trays of the wealthy bringing their first fruits to the Holy Temple, but would keep the woven baskets of the poor. This seems so counterintuitive!
Her explanation for the discrepancy is beautiful. I hope that you read it.
This reminds me of the time in our lives when my husband and I had to work hard to save money. It might have been romantic and cute to be broke had we been young 20-somethings in love. We weren’t. The causes were not our own, and were sad and frustrating. We researched, turned it into a mission, and with the help of Hashem and our family we did what we needed to do to get to a better financial place.
Having said that, the thing that made me feel poor was not what we were living without. I had what I needed. I always have what Hashem knows I need, even if it isn’t always apparent to me.
I felt poor when I couldn’t give tzedakah. When I had to say no. I had to keep everything within a budget, we lived in a community where lots of people asked for charity, and a lot of the time we just couldn’t give.
Growing up, my father tried to say yes to every Jewish charity that asked him. ( This, of course, has a Tribble-like effect on the number of Jewish charities that will ask.) He couldn’t give a lot to most, and he had to give less to each as a result, but he successfully instilled in his children the power of tzedakah.* As my husband and I struggled at the time, it was very hard for me to say no.
I cannot begin to understand how the people of Israel blessed to live in the time of the Holy Temple felt about their first fruit offerings. But I would like to think that one of the reasons that the woven baskets were kept is so the poor people who had fewer opportunities to fulfill the mitzvah of giving could feel the value of their contribution.