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Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Behar – Leviticus 25:1- 26:2

Defining success challenges most people. I’ve asked hundreds what financial success looks like to them. Most can’t answer this question. Those that do usually give a general response like, “I want to be comfortable.” But they don’t give a specific income target. Still, almost everyone wants to give to other people. So, while the Torah is silent about how much money you should make, it’s exact about how to be a top philanthropist. Parshas Behar explains:

If your brother becomes impoverished… you will strengthen him… so that he can live with you. (Vayikra/Leviticus 25:35)

Now You Can Be a Top Philanthropist

This Sabbath’s parsha teaches about the shemitah or sabbatical year and the yovel or jubilee year. It also gives the laws about selling land, how to prevent poverty, and how to treat a Jewish servant.

How to Be Charitable

The great Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon describes eight levels of charity. From lowest to highest they are:

  1. Giving directly to a poor person unwillingly.
  2. Giving directly to a poor person inadequately but gladly and with a smile.
  3. Giving directly to a poor person after being asked.
  4. Giving directly to a poor person without being asked.
  5. Giving without knowing who the recipient(s) are but the recipient(s) know you.
  6. Giving when you know the recipient(s) but recipient(s) don’t know you.
  7. Giving without knowing who the recipient(s) are and the recipient(s) don’t know you.
  8. Finding someone a job, partnering with him, or giving him a loan so he can become self-sufficient.

Notice as the level of giving rises the donor and recipient become more separated. At levels 1 through 4 both parties know each other. From 4 to 7 they get more anonymous. Then a funny thing happens at the highest level. Donor and recipient not only know each other, they could even be partners.

When the Torah says to strengthen your impoverished brother, it’s referring to level 8. Help someone find a job or give him some work. Partner with someone in a business venture or lend him the money to start one. The top philanthropist helps another become self-sufficient.

The Benefit of Being a Top Philanthropist

I’ve written many times about the value of relationships. Married people live longer, healthier lives. Strong bonds with friends and colleagues provide similar benefits.

Add to the list being charitable. Giving to and helping people reduces mortality by lowering stress.

Now you can see the depth of G-d’s love. He created a world where when you’re a top philanthropist it helps you too. Giving lengthens your life. So do relationships. When someone profits through using your contacts you merit an even longer life.

It doesn’t matter how you define success. You can connect those less fortunate than you with people who can help them. You can train someone in a valuable skill or encourage him. Give a person a leg up and join the ranks of the top philanthropists of all time.

What do you do to be charitable? Please comment below.


Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

© , Kevin S. Bemel, All Rights Reserved

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