Hat Tip: Ezzie
As we enter a period in time where investment values have fallen and frugality is the new black, I'm happy to see a Rabbi who can separate out needs from wants.
Rav Aviner gives a rule of thumb for what should be a cause worth collecting for and what does not qualify: "If a person wants to live with extras it is a personal decision, but living with extras with other people's money is unheard of."
Q: If someone does not have money for Shabbat or a wedding, should he
A: He certainly should not collect donations. Collecting donations is only legitimate for necessary needs like food or medicine, but not for non-essential things. This is written at the end of the Mishnah in Pe'ah (8:9): “Anyone who does not need (to take tzedakah) and does so anyway will not leave this world before being in need of other people (because he is poor); and anyone who needs to take (tzedakah) and does not do so will not die from old age before supporting others from what he has acquired.” This means that a person should not ask for donations for extras. The Gemara says: "Make your Shabbat like a weekday and do not require [the help] of others" (Shabbat 118a, Pesachim 112-113), i.e. it is better to eat simple food such as bread and salt than to receive tzedakah. But if he does not have anything to eat, he should ask for tzedakah. The same applies for a wedding: a person needs to get married but he does not have to make a fancy wedding if he does not have the money to do so. I have friends who do not have a lot of money: one made a wedding in a nice outside area and brought sandwiches and the entire wedding cost 50 shekels. Another friend invited ten of us to the building of the Rabbinate which has a small hall. We drank coke and ate some cake and the entire wedding cost 20 shekels. Getting married is a mitzvah, but there is no obligation to have a fancy wedding. In Jerusalem in the Old Settlement as well as in Poland, people were poor and they made a wedding an hour before Shabbat, then davened ma'ariv and ate their Shabbat meal which was also the wedding meal. If a person wants to live with extras it is a personal decision, but living with extras with other people's money is unheard of.
I wonder how the Rabbi would answer regarding sending a child to sleepaway camp when the family must then turn around and take scholarship funds for tuition, or how the Rabbi would react to collections for Bar Mitzvah parties such as this one.
What a refreshing alternative view that hopefully will become "mainstream."
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