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When you take a census [lit. when you raise the head] (30:12).

             Why did the Torah choose to describe the taking of a census with the strange expression when you raise the head?  Even more puzzling is the teaching of the Sages (Bava Basra 10b): Moses said before Hashem, “With what will the pride of Israel be uplifted?” To this Hashem replied, “With raising up,” meaning that the pride (literally, horn) of the Jews can best be elevated by giving charity.  Why did Hashem express His answer with this part of the verse when seemingly He was referring to the ending, every man shall give an atonement for his soul, a much clearer reference to tzedakah?

               Rabbi Moshe Feinstein explains that this verse intends to teach us a lesson in the giving of  tzedakah, that the Torah expects us to give in a manner and quantity that will enable us to “raise our head,” to take pride in our giving. In practical terms, this means that we should make a bona fide effort to give as much tzedakah as our means allow, not just the minimum that will fulfill our obligation.  Only if we give in this fashion will the glory of Israel be uplifted, whereas anything less than the full amount we are honestly capable of, while it is still a mitzvah, will not serve to “raise our heads,” to elevate  the pride of the Jewish people. Humanity as a whole is also engaged in the practice of charity; but in order to be a  source of pride, our giving must somehow be distinguished from theirs. The only way to do that is to give to the fullest of our ability, and to give not condescendingly but in a way that respects the honor of the recipient.


Shabbat Shalom 


Rabbi Jonathan Horowitz


Sun, March 3 2024 23 Adar I 5784