By Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow
The Gemara (Pesachim 87b) records a conversation that Hashem had with Hoshea HaNavi that is not mentioned at all in Tanach. Tosfos and Rashi both explain, however, how this conversation is alluded to in the verses. Hashem told Hoshea that Bnei Yisrael had sinned, in order to evoke a proper response from him. Hoshea replied that everything was under Hashem’s control; if Hashem wished, he could exchange Klal Yisrael for another nation. Hashem was not pleased with this answer and rebuked Hoshea. Hashem loves us like children. Just as a father cannot switch his child for a different one, Hashem would never switch us for a different nation. Hashem reprimanded Hoshea that instead of speaking ill about Klal Yisrael, he should have prayed for them to be forgiven. Hoshea accepted this rebuke and successfully prayed for the sins of Bnei Yisrael to be absolved.
The commentators are perplexed as to how Hoshea could have possibly suggested to Hashem that he replace the Jewish nation with a different one. Hashem had already sworn that he would never exchange the Bnei Yisrael for another nation (Gittin 57b). The Sefer Ahavas Tzion offers a novel answer. The common translation of Hoshea’s response “Hevirum b’umah acheres” is “exchange them for another nation.” The Ahavas Tzion opines that is incorrect. The words actually mean “transfer them to another nation.” In other words, he was suggesting that the Bnei Yisrael be exiled. In Hoshea’s time, the Bnei Yisrael were stingy with their wealth. They rationalized that they couldn’t afford to give charity on account of the expenses brought about by their enemies. Hoshea suggested that they be exiled and their losses multiplied. They would then realize that their stinginess did not actually benefit them, as they lost their money anyway. Once they learned this lesson the hard way, they would return to their formerly generous conduct.
The lesson that Hoshea wanted Klal Yisrael to learn is in fact a Gemara in Bava Basra (10a). Rebbe Yehuda the son of Shalom expounded “Just as one’s sustenance is decreed on Rosh Hashanah, so too are one’s losses decreed on Rosh Hashanah.” If he merits, he will use the “loss” for charity. If he does not give money to charity, he will still have the same net loss but he will not get a mitzvah. The money may simply be stolen from him, for example. The Gemara proceeds to relate an incident in which Rebbe Yochanan Ben Zakai saw in a dream that his nephews would lose 700 dinarim in a particular year. That year, he pressed them to give tzedakah, and induced them to give 683 dinarim to charity. The night before Yom Kippur, the Kaiser’s officers came to confiscate his nephews’ funds. Rebbe Yochanan assured his nephews that the officers would only take 17 dinarim. They were destined to lose 700 dinarim, but they merited that they fulfilled a mitzvah with 683 of them.
The lesson to be learned is that one does not actually lose any money by giving charity. The opposite is true; one is making use of funds that would have been lost to one anyway. The very mitzvah of giving tzedakah will be a source of merit that one’s wealth will be safeguarded. Elsewhere, the Gemara refers to charity as the salt that preserves one’s wealth. Be’H we should be zocheh that all losses that were decreed on Klal Yisrael be fulfilled with charity. v
Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead and is a rebbi at Mesivta Kesser Yisroel of Willowbrook. He can be contacted at ASebrow@gmail.com.