Can Charity Be Done in Secret?
Our purpose at Vision for Israel is vast. We aim to help our neighbors in many ways and ensure that our communities have what they need. Perhaps the most significant way that we help our communities is by acting as stewards between donors and recipients. This service is key to giving. Many people feel shame when they receive charity, while others feel proud and egotistical when they give. Our job is to facilitate a shame-free, modest exchange of aid. It is in this way that we best serve God.
This idea brought about a moving story I (Batya) once heard.
Yosef's father had a neighborhood grocery store. He would make fresh yogurt to sell, and needed dozens of glass jars to put his yogurt in. Every day a man would come around selling jars, and Yosef's father would always buy from him, always making sure to pay a fair price.
One day, Yosef saw that the seller was walking up and down the street, collecting jars and putting them in his basket. This was the same basket of jars that he would bring to Yosef’s father to buy.
Yosef was so upset when he saw this, and said to his father, "I saw him pick up jars on the street and sell them to you." Yosef’s father silenced him and said, “Quiet, not now. Don’t speak". And Yosef went on to say, "But Abba (father) he is selling you something he found on the street."
When there were no people in the grocery store, Yosef’s father said to him, “My son, do not shame a man for his actions in public. He is doing what he can to survive, and this is how he makes his income. Everything is fine. I know where the jars come from, and I gladly give him the money. Never embarrass a person in front of others.”
The Jewish principle of Matan Baseter (giving in secret) fits this story perfectly. The Sephardic Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, is famous for articulating eight distinctive levels of charitable giving. Giving anonymously occupies a high position; the second level of giving is "where the donor doesn't know to whom he gives and the recipient doesn't know from whom he receives".
The key to true, heartfelt giving is modesty. It’s important to be humble, and give of yourself without wanting praise or attention in return; we must do good for the sake of serving God and our communities. The second, and perhaps most important part of serving others, is ensuring that those you serve don’t feel embarrassed or subordinate.
Here at Vision for Israel, we facilitate Matan Baseter for our donors and communities. We act as the conduit for double-blind giving. You, our donors, are able to give freely and modestly, while our recipients don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed of their poverty.
God loves all his people equally. When you take the time to give modestly, you participate in Matan Baseter. The Bible says:
The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all.
Our status in life does not matter in the eyes of God. Remember this when you perform acts of service, and help those in need. As we say at Vision for Israel, all are equal, and all deserve dignity and respect.
To give anonymously and participate in the Matan Baseter that we administrate, we have many opportunities to do so. You may find them here.
May the Lord bless and keep you as you serve the needy.
Barry & Batya Segal