Tzedakah and ha-Lachma Anya

בְּכָל־דּוֹר וָדוֹר חַיָּב אָדָם לִרְאוֹת אֶת־עַצְמוֹ כְּאִלּוּ הוּא יָצָא מִמִּצְרַיִם.

In each and every generation, a person is obligated to see himself as if he left Egypt.

(כ) וְגֵ֥ר לֹא־תוֹנֶ֖ה וְלֹ֣א תִלְחָצֶ֑נּוּ כִּֽי־גֵרִ֥ים הֱיִיתֶ֖ם בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ (כא) כָּל־אַלְמָנָ֥ה וְיָת֖וֹם לֹ֥א תְעַנּֽוּן׃ (כב) אִם־עַנֵּ֥ה תְעַנֶּ֖ה אֹת֑וֹ כִּ֣י אִם־צָעֹ֤ק יִצְעַק֙ אֵלַ֔י שָׁמֹ֥עַ אֶשְׁמַ֖ע צַעֲקָתֽוֹ׃
(20) You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (21) You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan. (22) If you do mistreat them, I will heed their outcry as soon as they cry out to Me,

Lo ti-anun -- do not afflict them, because you remember what it was like to be in Mitzrayim. Familiar shoresh -- HaLachma Anya.

But that introduction to the heart of our seders is also an invitation -- Kol Dichfin yeiti v'yeichol. As an act of tzedakah, this poses a problem. What do we know about performing tzedakah?

(ג) צריך ליתן הצדקה בסבר פנים יפות בשמחה ובטוב לבב ומתאונן עם העני בצערו ומדבר לו דברי תנחומין ואם נתנה בפנים זועפות ורעות הפסיד זכותו:

(3) Charity should be given with a friendly countenance, with joy, and with a good heart; the giver should, sympathize with the poor man, and should speak words of comfort to him. If he gives with a displeased countenance he loses his reward.

(י) וְתָפֵ֤ק לָֽרָעֵב֙ נַפְשֶׁ֔ךָ וְנֶ֥פֶשׁ נַעֲנָ֖ה תַּשְׂבִּ֑יעַ וְזָרַ֤ח בַּחֹ֙שֶׁךְ֙ אוֹרֶ֔ךָ וַאֲפֵלָתְךָ֖ כַּֽצָּהֳרָֽיִם׃
(10) And you offer your compassion to the hungry And satisfy the famished creature— Then shall your light shine in darkness, And your gloom shall be like noonday.

(ה) שְׂבֵעִ֤ים בַּלֶּ֙חֶם֙ נִשְׂכָּ֔רוּ וּרְעֵבִ֖ים חָדֵ֑לּוּ ... (ח) מֵקִ֨ים מֵעָפָ֜ר דָּ֗ל מֵֽאַשְׁפֹּת֙ יָרִ֣ים אֶבְי֔וֹן לְהוֹשִׁיב֙ עִם־נְדִיבִ֔ים...

(5) Men once sated must hire out for bread; Men once hungry hunger no more... (8) He raises the poor from the dust, Lifts up the needy from the dunghill, Setting them with nobles.

From the Marbeh Lisaper, by Rabbi Yedidiah Tiah Weil, expelled from Prague in 1745, was the Rav of Karlsruhe, Germany from 1770 to 1805. Written in the 1780s.

Translation by Rabbi Mark B Greenspan

Ha lachma anya: There are a number of difficulties in this passage. First, the passage should have begun with the words, “All who are hungry come and eat.” Second, it would have been more appropriate to say, “This is the bread of affliction” when everyone is sitting around the table paying attention. There are other issues which Don Isaac Abarbanel and the Ma’aseh Adonai spell out.
In Yoreh Deah 249:3 we learn that when giving tzedakah, one should do so with a cheerful countenance, joyfully and with a full heart. One should empathize with the needy person in his misery and speak to him with consolation. If one greets him with an angry countenance then he loses all merit for the mitzvah of giving tzedakah even if he gives him money or food. This is what the prophet Isaiah wrote: “and you offer your compassion to the hungry and satisfy the famished creature.” This means that one should first speak to the needy person and ask him about his troubles. One should not humiliate him since the world is a turning wheel – the needy person who sits on the dung heap may eventually sit with princes. He should placate the poor person and encourage him to come to his house. But once the meal begins, he should not speak about the other’s poverty; rather he should treat him as if he were the host’s best friend and happy to be with him. They should eat and drink happily together. When the poor guest prepares to leave, once again his host should console him with soft words and tell him that God will help him and that he will see better times just as we all wait for the final redemption.
These are the things that the host should do who invites the needy to join him at the Seder. First, he should say, “This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt.” By saying “In Egypt,” instead of saying, “When we went forth from Egypt.” David Abudraham relates that when his contemporary was imprisoned in India they fed him unleavened bread that did not get moldy or stale. One can go on to explain that the Egyptians did not allow the Israelites to bake regular bread in Egypt – but eventually the unleavened bread became a symbol of freedom. In this way, one can remove the mask of humiliation from the poor person’s face. He does not have to feel he has come to a rich person’s house this night – we all eat the bread of poverty and affliction. Rather we should make the person feel at home and accepted by saying: “All who are in need come and celebrate the Pesach.” He does not have to feel that he is eating the bread of humiliation. And when he prepares to leave, speaking consolingly to him and say, “This year we are here – next year in the land of Israel!” That is, he can anticipate God’s redemption land of Israel just as we do.

תניא היה רבי מאיר אומר יש לו לבעל הדין להשיבך ולומר לך אם אלהיכם אוהב עניים הוא מפני מה אינו מפרנסן אמור לו כדי שניצול אנו בהן מדינה של גיהנם וזו שאלה שאל טורנוסרופוס הרשע את ר"ע אם אלהיכם אוהב עניים הוא מפני מה אינו מפרנסם אמר לו כדי שניצול אנו בהן מדינה של גיהנם
§ It is taught in a baraita: Rabbi Meir would say: An opponent may bring an argument against you and say to you: If your God loves the poor, for what reason does He not support them Himself? In such a case, say to him: He commands us to act as His agents in sustaining the poor, so that through them we will be credited with the performance of mitzvot and therefore be saved from the judgment of Gehenna. And this is the question that Turnus Rufus the wicked asked Rabbi Akiva: If your God loves the poor, for what reason does He not support them Himself? Rabbi Akiva said to him: He commands us to sustain the poor, so that through them and the charity we give them we will be saved from the judgment of Gehenna.
רב פפא הוה סליק בדרגא אישתמיט כרעיה בעי למיפל אמר השתא כן איחייב מאן דסני לן כמחללי שבתות וכעובדי עבודת כוכבים א"ל חייא בר רב מדפתי לרב פפא שמא עני בא לידך ולא פרנסתו
The Gemara relates: Rav Pappa was once climbing up a ladder when his foot slipped and he almost fell. He said: Now, is the one who hates us, a euphemism for himself, liable like Shabbat desecrators and idol worshippers, who are subject to death by stoning, which is similar to death by falling, the punishment that Rav Pappa narrowly escaped? Ḥiyya bar Rav of Difti said to Rav Pappa: Perhaps a poor person once approached you and you did not sustain him, and therefore you were given a glimpse of the punishment that you actually deserve.
(ב) לֹא־י֭וֹעִילוּ אוֹצְר֣וֹת רֶ֑שַׁע וּ֝צְדָקָ֗ה תַּצִּ֥יל מִמָּֽוֶת׃

(2) Ill-gotten wealth is of no avail, But giving charity saves from death.

(טו) אֲנִ֗י בְּ֭צֶדֶק אֶחֱזֶ֣ה פָנֶ֑יךָ אֶשְׂבְּעָ֥ה בְ֝הָקִ֗יץ תְּמוּנָתֶֽךָ׃

(15) When I give tzedakah, then will I behold Your face; awake, I am filled with the vision of You.

תניא רבי יהודה אומר גדולה צדקה שמקרבת את הגאולה שנאמר (ישעיהו נו, א) כה אמר ה' שמרו משפט ועשו צדקה כי קרובה ישועתי לבא וצדקתי להגלות.

הוא היה אומר עשרה דברים קשים נבראו בעולם הר קשה ברזל מחתכו ברזל קשה אור מפעפעו אור קשה מים מכבין אותו מים קשים עבים סובלים אותן עבים קשים רוח מפזרתן רוח קשה גוף סובלו גוף קשה פחד שוברו פחד קשה יין מפיגו יין קשה שינה מפכחתו ומיתה קשה מכולם [וצדקה מצלת מן המיתה] דכתיב (משלי י, ב) וצדקה תציל ממות.

דרש רבי דוסתאי ברבי ינאי בוא וראה שלא כמדת הקב"ה מדת בשר ודם מדת בשר ודם אדם מביא דורון גדול למלך ספק מקבלין אותו הימנו ספק אין מקבלין אותו הימנו [ואם תמצא לומר מקבלים אותו ממנו] ספק רואה פני המלך ספק אינו רואה פני המלך והקדוש ברוך הוא אינו כן אדם נותן פרוטה לעני זוכה ומקבל פני שכינה שנאמר (תהלים יז, טו) אני בצדק אחזה פניך אשבעה בהקיץ תמונתך

רבי אלעזר יהיב פרוטה לעני והדר מצלי אמר דכתיב אני בצדק אחזה פניך מאי אשבעה בהקיץ תמונתך אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק אלו תלמידי חכמים שמנדדין שינה מעיניהם בעולם הזה והקב"ה משביען מזיו השכינה לעולם הבא

It is taught in a baraita that Rabbi Yehuda says: Great is charity in that it advances the redemption, as it is stated: “So said the Lord, uphold justice and do charity, for My salvation is near to come, and My righteousness to be revealed” (Isaiah 56:1).

He would say: Ten strong entities were created in the world, one stronger than the other. A mountain is strong, but iron, which is stronger, cleaves it. Iron is strong, but fire melts it. Fire is strong, but water extinguishes it. Water is strong, but clouds bear it. Clouds are strong, but wind disperses them. Wind is strong, but the human body withstands it. The human body is strong, but fear breaks it. Fear is strong, but wine dispels it. Wine is strong, but sleep drives it off. And death is stronger than them all, but charity saves a person from death, as it is written: “And charity delivers from death” (Proverbs 10:2, 11:4).

Rabbi Dostai, son of Rabbi Yannai, taught: Come and see that the attribute of the Holy One, Blessed be He, is not like the attribute of flesh and blood. An illustration of the attribute of flesh and blood is that when a person brings a great gift to the king, it is uncertain whether the king will accept it from him or will not accept it from him. And if you say that the king will accept it from him, it is uncertain whether the person who brought the gift will eventually see the face of the king, or will not see the face of the king. But the Holy One, Blessed be He, does not act in this way. Even when a person gives a mere peruta to a poor person, he merits to receive the Divine Presence, as it is stated: “As for me, I will behold Your face through charity; I will be satisfied, when I awake, with Your likeness” (Psalms 17:15).

It is related that Rabbi Elazar would first give a peruta to a poor person and only then would he pray. He said: As it is written in the same verse: “I will behold Your face through charity.”

(The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of that which is written: “I will be satisfied, when I awake, with your likeness”? Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak says: These are Torah scholars, who in pursuit of their studies banish sleep from their eyes in this world, and the Holy One of Blessing, satiates them with the radiance of the Shechina in the World-to-Come.)