Our sages compare charity, helping the poor, to three elements. In one case, charity is
compared to gold, in another case it is compared to silver and in a third case it is compared to copper.
Charity is compared to gold when the person provides it anonymously (the poor person is not embarrassed and no one knows that he is the recipient of it). Or if the money is given in the form of a loan. The Hebrew word for gold is zahav, with the letters Zayin - Heh - Beis representing the words 'zeh ha'nosen b'seser' - he who gives anonymously.
The silver charity refers to a person who gives only when he is in trouble. His child or a loved one is very sick or he is in danger. Then he gives charity to buy his way out. This is called kesef (Kaf - Samach - Peh) meaning 'ka asher ro'eh sakana pose ach.' When he is in danger he opens his purse.
The third is copper. When he is near death and sees no hope for life anymore he then wills his money to charity. This is called n’choshes, the letters meaning 'ne'um choleh she'yomar t'nu,' the last word of a sick person who gives charity.
Charity and good deeds help a person in this world and represent and aid him in the World to Come.
Our sages tell the parable of a man who had three friends. The first was a very close and devoted friend. The second was someone he associated with occasionally. The third he rarely saw.
One day this man received a summons to appear before the king. He became very frightened. Perhaps he had done something wrong and he would be punished. Approaching his first friend he said to him, "Will you accompany me to the king? Your presence will give me comfort."
But the friend refused, saying he had no time to accompany him as he had other things to do. Disappointed, he went to his second friend and asked that he accompany him to the king. But he replied, "Out of appreciation for all the kind things you did for me, I will accompany you up to the gate of the king's palace. There I will have to leave you."
The man was very aggravated and with great hesitance decided to visit his third friend with whom he had had very little contact during the years.
This friend, however, agreed to go with him and to plead for him before the king. "Fear not," he said, "I will go with you through thick and thin, and you can count on me."
Our Three Possessions
Our sages explain the story in this manner. The first friend represents money, wealth and earthly possessions, which never leave the person. It stays with him continuously until his dying day. But then it deserts him. He cannot take it with him.
The second friend are his relatives, his family, who accompany him only up to the grave. The children and heirs arrange for his last earthly remains. But they too turn back and leave him to take care of himself.
But his third friend, whom he very rarely saw during his life, turns out to be the true friend who remains with him and helps him. This friend represents the mitzvos, good deeds and charity, which help him even after he departs from this world. They will appear with him on the Day of Judgment and remain with him as an everlasting and loyal friend.
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Page last updated - 0717/2009