Talmud Tips

For the week ending 10 May 2014 / 10 Iyyar 5774

Rosh Hashana 2 - 8

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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“One who says: I donate this Selah (a certain amount of money) to charity in order that my ill child will live, or in order that I will merit life in the World-to-Come, is a completely righteous tzaddik.”

This beraita is taught on our daf, but at first glance seems difficult to understand. Why should the fulfilment of a single mitzvah of tzedaka — as important as this is — bestow the title of “completely righteous” (tzaddik gamur)? What about taking into account all other actions of the person in his success in observing the rest of the mitzvot as well?

Rashi’s commentary is brief and intriguing: “If he does this often (gives charity)”. But the question still stands: Why this mitzvah — even if done often — has enough merit to consider the person a tzaddik gamur?

I’ve heard from a great Rabbi in Jerusalem that Rashi’s few words are coming to answer the first question of why doing this particular mitzvah is enough to consider a person completely righteous. A person in need who prays to G-d and even offers to help others in need at every possible opportunity demonstrates that he recognizes G-d as the true Source all one’s needs — an indication that the giving person is completely righteous.

  • Rosh Hashana 4a

Another question is raised on this same beriata by the commentaries. How is stipulating that one is giving charity in order to receive reward an act of a tzaddik gamur? Aren’t we taught in a mishna that “One should not be like servants who serve the Master (G-d) in order to receive reward”? (Pirkei Avot 1:3)

Many answers are offered, such as the following. The mishna in Avot refers to people who are upset and regretful at having given the charity if it turns out that their request was not fulfilled to their satisfaction. Our gemara, however, is speaking about the typical Jewish person who is thrilled with having fulfilled the mitzvah of charity in any event, and even if he ends up suffering, he will not think that G-d was “unfair” but will realize that he deserved the outcome for his own benefit (see Rashi and Tosefot).

  • Rosh Hashana 4a

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