How Tzedaka Prevents Death

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Reader: I have a question regarding charity. How does it save someone from death, as stated in Proverbs 10:2 and Daniel 4:24?

Omphile Tshipa, Africa

Rabbi: Proverbs chapter 10:2 reads as follows: 

“Storehouses of evil will not help, and charity saves from death.”

The first part of the verse rejects man’s belief that wealth is a security: wealth is limited to this life alone, and what’s limited, can’t provide security. People have a grave misconception that wealth is absolute security, as they don’t accept their own mortality. Earthly life is the only reality to most people; they deny death. Furthermore, Metsudas Dovid says that evilly-gained wealth will not defend a person when God punishes him.

Deflating man's belief in immortality and security on Earth, true security concerns a person’s soul. In direct opposition to amassing wealth, Torah says here that giving charity is the true security for the true life, the soul’s life, and even saves one from earthly death and death of one’s soul. King Solomon draws a stark contrast stating that amassing wealth does not produce security for one’s life, whereas giving wealth does. How does this work?

Rabbi Israel Chait said that charity is the greatest indication of human perfection because one trusts in God to the point of giving away his money. He added, “In tzedaka, one realizes the entire world belongs to God.” When a person has this realization, he no longer finds it easy to sin, as sin is generated from a self-deserving feeling. But when giving tzedaka, one recognizes that all belongs to God. Avos 3:7 states, “Rabbi Elazar, man of Bartuta, says: “Give Him from what is His, for you and yours are His, and thus with David it says, ‘For all comes from You, and from Your hand we have given to You’” (I chronicles 29:14). 

How is charity unique over all other acts, that it saves one from death? 

Man’s greatest difficulty is parting with his money, with his physical security. Trusting in God means a person’s sense of reality is not physical (wealth), but is God, who can override laws of nature. Wealth is not his absolute trust; God is. Giving charity shows that the person is convinced that he will not suffer monetarily. Typically, when a person gives away wealth, he has less. But the perfected person knows when he gives charity that there's another system which can give him his needs...regardless of the charity that diminished his wealth.

It then follows that God’s laws—His metaphysical system that overrides the physical world—finds its greatest expression when one is even saved from death due to tzedaka. Tzedaka can override the most severe physical laws, i.e., death. Tzedaka, then, is man’s greatest expression of his conviction that physical laws are subjugated to God’s laws of providence. Providence is more real to the righteous and intelligent person. Giving tzedaka—man’s most difficult challenge and his greatest expression of faith in God—earns the donor God’s greatest providential act of saving his life. It is yet another display of God’s “Measure for Measure” method of governing man: for man’s greatest act of tzedaka, God performs the greatest good of saving his life. 

King Solomon contrasts limited physical laws to God’s absolute overriding providence. He contrasts man’s concern with immortal physical life, with the true immortality: that of the soul.