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Judaism is nice, but isn't it more important to feed the hungry?

by Rabbi Tzvi Shapiro

  

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Question: 

Each year, we Jews spend so many millions of dollars, and devote so much time and energy, to building synagogues, Jewish schools, and a slew of other religious and academic institutions. Wouldn't it be better if we applied all those resources to feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and working to alleviate all the horrendous suffering that goes on in so many places in the world?

Answer:

Why do we still teach children calculus? Today we have calculators and computers!

Isn’t it a waste of time and money to teach children something they essentially don’t need to do? Every child has a cell phone, and every cell phone has a calculator; who needs Mrs. Brown and third grade math?

Furthermore, every child also has (access to) a computer, and a computer can produce more equations than the child will ever be able to. Who needs high school or college math?

Have you ever asked this question before? Probably not. Do you know why? Because it is a foolish question:

Who programs computers?

People!

If kids don’t learn calculus who will program computers to calculate?

every Jewish school is guaranteed to produce far more charity than it ever receives.
Who programs people to give charity to hungry people? Who programs people to give charity? Who programs people to give? Who programs people?

Jewish education.

Feeding the hungry hasn’t always been on top of society’s mind. Giving away your hard earned money to someone else is not a natural desire or reflex.

So what inspires it?

Jewish education.

It is probably safe to say that Jews who received a proper Jewish education are, as a group, the most charitable people in the world. Second to them are Jews whose parents had a Jewish education. And after that are Jews whose parents’ parents had a Jewish education.

The focus of many a joke is the Jewish phenomenon of the Goldberg door, on the Weiss room, on the Greenstein floor, of the Cohen wing, in the Miller building of the Schwartz campus. There is a reason why such jokes are made: because those dedications exist. And they exist because those contributions are the norm in the Jewish world.

Needless to say, charity is not exclusive to Jews or the Jewish community, but charity is pioneered, epitomized, widespread and unparalleled therein.

Because of Jewish education.

Take a simple example: Modern secular philosophy says if you have (extra), give. Jewish philosophy says give, and (in that merit) you will have. In tough financial times when most people are likely to cut back on their charity, people with a proper Jewish education are actually likely to give more. 

Jewish education is the impetus for charity. Any charity. People with a proper Jewish education are most likely to give more charity to the hungry, to the sick, and to the helpless. And to future Jewish education.

Because when you invest in Jewish education and Jewish institutions you are investing in every form of charity.

Much like the programmer who makes a single computer that can solve any number of challenges, when you fund Jewish education you are forming people who will contribute to any number of charities. And just as the computer will by far exceed the calculus abilities of its programmer, so too every Jewish school is guaranteed to produce far more charity than it ever receives.


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Mitzvot » Charity