Friday, June 21, 2019

:ה Gentile Contributions

הלכתיה דרבי מאיר מסתברא דכתיב לא לכם ולנו לבנות בית אלהינו...ורבי יהודה האי לא לכם ולנו מאי עביד ליה ... אלא אמר רבא משום רפיון ידים הוא
רש"י ד"ה משום רפיון ידים. משום שלא היו מתכוונים לטובה אלא שיסמכו גם עליהם וישמעו לעצתם והם יאחרו הבנין עד שיסיבו את לב כורש שלא לבנותו

It would seem that the dispute between רבי מאיר and רבי יהודה is not confined to סברא as far as how they understood the rejection of the contributions for the בית שני. There would have to be a practical halachic implication as well. As רש”י explains, the pledges of those with ill intentions will prevent others from making their genuine pledges and the fundraising process will ultimately be stalled. But if a Gentile were to deliver the funds in hand, this concern would no longer apply. רבי יהודה would reject their pledges but not their actual donations. רבי מאיר, conversely, would seem to reject all outside contributions regardless. (I’m not quite sure how to understand the issue raised at the end of this סוגיא regarding the contribution of beams. The גמרא seems to only answer according to רבי יהודה’s reasoning.)

Considering this matter led me an insight regarding the growing trend of match-based charity initiatives where people are urged to donate to a specific cause within a certain time frame and each dollar will be doubled or tripled by matches pledged by larger donors. The program must hit a certain goal or it all collapses and all pledges are returned. I’m not sure who originally invented this brilliant idea but one of the more popular sites is I have heard a common gripe about these programs that the money is really all “ready” and larger donors have already assured ahead of time that no matter what, by the time the campaign is over, they will reach their goal. So why the whole charade?

We have learned from רש”י that the reality of human nature is that people’s desire to donate is driven by need. If people think that the money is already there or on its way, they will refrain from contributing. These larger donors could likely fund the whole campaign on their own. But participating in this “ruse” ultimately moves others to jump in and get involved. We should probably be looking at this whole idea as a fulfillment of the משנה in פרקי אבות:

ה:י”ג ארבע מדות בנותני צדקה:... יתן ויתנו אחרים, חסיד

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