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Ta'anis 24


QUESTION: The Gemara describes the generosity of a man named Rebbi Elazar Ish Birasa. He was so outstandingly benevolent that the communal Tzedakah collectors used to run away from him and hide so that he would not give too much Tzedakah and impoverish himself. The Gemara relates that one time, he was going to the market with a huge sum of money to buy a dowry for his daughter. He found the Tzedakah collectors and he gave them all of the money that he had, except for a single Zuz (with which he was able to buy one wheat kernel)!

How could Rebbi Elazar Ish Birasa give away all of his money to Tzedakah? The Gemara (Kesuvos 50a) says that the Rabanan of Usha instituted that one should not give away more than one fifth of one's assets to Tzedakah. How, then, could he give away so much money? (GEVURAS ARI)


(a) The CHAFETZ CHAIM (Ahavas Chesed 19:4) says that when it comes to giving to a general Tzedakah fund, one may not give more than a fifth. However, if one is approached by a poor person who is in need of food or clothing, one is permitted to give the person as much as he needs, and it is a praiseworthy practice to do so if one has the means. (He bases this on the words of the Rambam in PERUSH HA'MISHNAH at the beginning of Pe'ah and the VILNA GAON in his famous letter to his household, "Alim l'Terufah," who, in turn, base their ruling on the Yerushalmi.)

(b) The RASHASH and BEN YEHOYADA point out that the Girsa recorded in the DIKDUKEI SOFRIM and in many old texts of the Gemara is "Elazar Ish *Bartosa*." He was a Tana who is quoted in Avos (3:8) as teaching, "Give to Hashem what is His, because you and all that you have belong to Him" -- a statement very fitting for the conduct of the person the Gemara is discussing, who tried to give away all of his money to Tzedakah.

If he was a Tana, the Gevuras Ari's question does not begin. The law that one may not give away more than a fifth is one of the enactments that were made in Usha, after the Churban. The man described in our Gemara, according to this Girsa, a Tana who lived *before* the times of the Beis Din in Usha. Therefore, in his day there was nothing wrong with giving away more than a fifth of one's money to Tzedakah!

(The Rashash suggests that the reason the GEVURAS ARI asks the question is because he assumed that the man described in the Gemara was not the Tana of the Mishnah, since the Gemara does not call him "Rebbi" Elazar but just "Elazar.")


AGADAH: Our Gemara relates some of the miracles performed by the holy Tana Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa. In the end of Maseches Sotah we are told that he was the last of the "Anshei Ma'aseh" -- miracle performers. Why was he granted the power to perform such extraordinary miracles?

Rav Tzadok ha'Kohen points out that of all that we are told about Rebbi Chanina in the Mishnah and Talmud, he is only once quoted not in the context of a story, teaching a Halachic practice. That one teaching is (Avos 3:9), "If one's fear of heaven precedes his [Torah] wisdom, his wisdom will endure... If one's deeds are more abundant than his [Torah] wisdom, his wisdom will endure." This statement is a perfect description of Rebbi Chanina approach to the service of Hashem, and it was through its flawless fulfillment that he reached his unique spiritual heights.

The Gemara tells us "Rebbi Chanina said, the only thing Hashem keeps is His treasury is a reserve of G-dfearingness" (Berachos 33b). Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa had that in abundance. For this reason, "It is for Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa that Olam ha'Ba was created!" (Berachos 61b)

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