Towards the end of today’s daf (Ketubot 67b) we are told a story that highlights the great lengths with which Mar Ukva and his wife would go to in order to give charity to the poor while endeavouring to maintain the dignity of the recipient.
Then, we are told a further story demonstrating Mar Ukva’s commitment to the Torah principle (see Devarim 15:8) of די מחסרו which teaches that one who gives charity should provide a pauper ‘with what they are lacking’ – even if this significantly exceeds what the giver considers to be the paupers basic needs because a core aspect of giving to the poor includes helping them not view themselves as being poor. Overall, what we learn from these stories is that Mar Ukva was incredibly dedicated to the mitzvah of tzedakah.
We are then told a further story – with this one taking place when Mar Ukva was on his deathbed. And what does he ask for? For his charity records. Yet upon reading that, over his life, he had given a huge sum of seven thousand Siyankian dinars, he remarked: “My provisions are light and the way is long” – meaning that, as he was about to begin his journey from this world to the next, he did not consider his charitable activities in his lifetime as being sufficient. Consequently, he then committed half of his remaining assets to charity.
Reflecting on these teachings, while we should regularly give and regularly review our giving of charity, the month of Ellul is an ideal time to review our charity records for the past year, to honour any outstanding charity commitments we may have made, and to consider our charity commitments for the coming year. And if we unfortunately need a stark reminder of the fragility of human life, then the very fact that I am writing this piece on 9/11 should be a sufficient prompt that we can never know what may occur on any given day.
Ultimately, what we learn from the stories told in today’s daf is that by giving tzedakah we can bring a measure of redemption to the lives of the poor (as we are taught in Bava Batra 10a,גְּדוֹלָה צְדָקָה שֶׁמְּקָרֶבֶת אֶת הַגְּאוּלָּה, ‘great is charity as it brings the redemption closer’). As such, while every day is a good day to give charity, we should try and grab an opportunity today to review and ensure that our charity giving is as it should – because “if not now, when?”.