“The Heart Follows the Actions”
Yael Eckstein | August 28, 2020
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” — Malachi 3:10
This month, I’m sharing with you weekly devotions from my book, Generation to Generation: Passing on a Legacy of Faith to Our Children. These devotions are tied to the Jewish principle of tzedakah, charity, and how we teach our children to be generous and giving.
There is an axiom in Judaism that says, “The heart follows the actions.” This means that what we do effects how we feel. This is why giving is an obligation, not an option. God commanded us to give to the poor no matter how we may feel because the more we give, the more we feel like giving and not the other way around.
Interestingly, the Hebrew word for love, ahava, is rooted in the word hav, which denotes “giving.” This teaches us that love is a byproduct of giving. The biblical directive to “love your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:18) is best fulfilled through giving. Echoing this directive, in his famous Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42).
Judaism maintains that it is better to give a smaller amount of charity regularly than to give one large gift and refrain from giving year-round. Just as we need to exercise a muscle regularly in order to make it stronger, we need to give consistently in order to fully develop the trait of generosity. By placing tzedakah boxes in our homes and places of gathering, we give ourselves the opportunity to give charity every day.
The goal for us is to give consistently and generously, but giving our hard-earned money can be difficult. Even with generous hearts, our heads might worry that we will not have enough for ourselves if we give our resources away. However, God promised that, “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing …” (Proverbs 28:27). In addition, God declared that when we give tzedakah, not only will He “pay us back,” He will increase us. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house,” God said. He promised, “Test me in this…and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (Malachi 3:10).
Ultimately, generosity comes naturally when we learn to see the poor as our brethren. In Judaism, we note that every time Scripture commands us to give to the poor, the word “brother” appears as well. This teaches that we must see the needy as our own family members. Just as we would never turn our backs on our loved ones, we must never close our hearts to those who are also the children of God, our brothers and sisters in the family of God. When we see the needy as beloved family, how could we not give willingly, generously, and with love?
Download a complimentary sample of my new book, Generation to Generation, at generationbook.org to learn more about passing on our faith to the next generation.