This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for her neshama.by Elisheva Maline
Picture the following: guy dates girl. Guy declares undying love and proposes marriage. Girl tearfully consents and they proceed to the Chuppah (wedding canopy a.k.a. Jewish ceremony). Nice image.
One morning, after some time has elapsed, the husband turns to his wife and declares, "Honey, I love you so much, and I want to prove it to you. Put me to the test. There is nothing too big that could get between us!" He is so overcome with emotion he lowers himself to one knee. When she furrows her brow and storms out of the room, however, he is totally gobsmacked. Not the reaction I was expecting... he thinks, running after her.
"I don't want to be in a relationship where I must push your buttons in order to get proof of your undying love," his wife explains afterward, "I'd like to jump start our marriage by watching you observe and learn about all the little things that make me happy (as I do the same for you). So please, don't offer to prove your love by asking me to make your life a misery! And besides, what if you were to fail? How would we bring things back to what they were?"
We can understand the seriousness of the above statement when we consider Dovid HaMelech's relationship with Hashem (G-d). Dovid was so in love with serving his Creator that he woke up at midnight every night to sing songs of praise to Hashem. These songs were eventually compiled into The Tehillim (psalms). Yet, when Dovid asked G-d to test him as proof of his profound love for Him, the king failed. Did this mean that Dovid did not love Hashem to the degree that he claimed? Not at all! However, Hashem wanted to teach him, and all future generations, that Dovid's example should not stand in as the paradigm for healthy relationships. We don't show our love to G-d, or each other, by asking Him to test us. Learning His Torah and keeping the 613 commandments is proof enough.
When it comes to giving ten percent of our income to tzedakah (charity), though, Hashem makes a complete about face. He goes from a warning, "לא תנסו את ה' אלקיכם - You shall not test Hashem, your G-d" (Devarim 6:16) to encouraging us, "עשר תעשר כדי שתתעשר - give ten percent and accumulate wealth" (Devarim 14:22). In fact, "Rav Yochanan states that it is permitted for a person to give Maaser (Tithing) with the express intent of testing Hashem to see whether he will actually receive the promised wealth. This is because Hashem told us through the prophet Malachi (3:10), 'Bring all of the Maaser into the storehouse, so that there will be food in My house, and put me to the test in this, says Hashem, if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out for you immeasurable blessings.' Over there, Tosafos quotes the Sifri that the obligation of separating the Maaser that Rav Yochanan is referring to is not only from a grain harvest, but also from any profit a person makes from business deals, salary, or even gifts that he receives" Torah.org.
Why is G-d so adamant about this mitzvah (commandment) of giving ten percent that He guarantees us, not only our money back, to the penny, but great wealth as well? The Rema in Yorah De'ah provides one answer (249:1): one is only guaranteed to get his or her money back after giving ten percent if s/he donates specifically to the indigent. Hashem wants us to look after His downtrodden and those down-on-their-lucks. In any case, if we look after each other, He will look after us. Where does our money come from after all? Every year, a person's yearly income is decreed in Heaven. If we maintain the awareness that Hashem is the One Who lines our pockets and if we make sure to remember that we're conduits for passing on the good stuff (as opposed to vessels in and of themselves), Hashem will continue raining His abundance down on His nation through us.