The blessings of giving have been revealed in mourning

By Jaynie Schultz
My mother died Feb. 24, 2018. In preparation for the end of the second phase of the mourning period, Shloshim, I have been reflecting on how to express my appreciation to our beautiful community for their support since that horrible day.
Word spread like wildfire, despite the fact that she passed away on Shabbat. Almost as quickly came the offers of help. From the funeral onward, friends and community members have taken care of everything for us, from meals to helping my father move. Not a day goes by when we do not get calls, cards and offers of comfort. So beyond the extensive generosity of time, spirit and means, what does this teach us?
I received a condolence call from a friend whose parents are much like mine in their philanthropy and community activism. In that conversation, I realized something really important that changed the way I view philanthropy.
Jewish tradition teaches that we are required to give, and for that we are blessed. There is no specificity to the blessing and we are certainly taught not to give only for that potential blessing. Any rewards are ambiguous at best.
When we were growing up, we didn’t play “house”; we played “meeting.” Not a birthday, anniversary, holiday or special celebration went by without a gift to a nonprofit. My parents gave millions and percentages way beyond the traditional tithe of 10 percent to tzedakah. They lived humbly and made certain we knew that their success was a gift from God. We should never feel entitled to the wealth they earned; anything we receive is a gift. We are expected to give significantly ourselves, and gifts in the Schultz Family name always include contributions from each of us.
So, in speaking to my friend, I realized that the time and money given to the community by my parents has come back to us in comfort and concern. Everywhere we turn, people are reaching out offering hugs and words of praise for my mother. The schools we support sent notes from students of all ages sharing what they love about their schools. One rabbi told me that every “amen” and every lesson learned on campus is a tribute to my mother. The respect given by the students when I come in the morning to say Kaddish is a daily reminder of what my parents did for us.
I suddenly felt stricken with sadness for the families of people who never gave and only passed their wealth internally, within their family.
Many years ago I learned from Rabbi Benjamin Blech that when we study the concept of the sins of the father being passed down, it could mean that parents who do not provide an education for their children do pass on that sin because the children are the ones who suffer from ignorance. The same could be said for giving. My parents have given so much and we, their children and grandchildren, benefit directly and very personally through the comfort offered by our community. Micah Romaner called it a circle of love.” Had my parents shared their time and treasure only with us, I would certainly feel much more alone right now. As Pastor Mack Fleming said, “What you honor rewards you.”
During shiva, when people depart, they say “May God comfort you among the other mourners in Zion and Jerusalem.” We have been comforted by God in the many blessings he bestowed through life and the painless and quick death for my mother, Leslie Ann Vile Schultz. The blessing promised in the Torah for giving has been revealed, and it is not only from God but from every person touched by my parents.

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