Guest post by Daniel
Based on my best calculations, I gave very close to, or just over, $25 in tzedakah throughout Purim this year. I was makpid to the best of my ability to always give something to anyone that asked me.
Upon arriving back at my house, there was a letter waiting for me, literally right outside my door. It was a 6-week late birthday card from a non-Jewish relative of mine. They don't even know it's Purim this week, let alone what Purim is. There was cash enclosed totaling $25.
The money came right back to me in lightning speed. One thing this teaches me is that the true price of a mitzvah is not the financial expense. It's like my money was distilled, extracting the spirituality (the mitzvah) within it, if you can picture that, and then sent right back to me. So what was extracted in that process? What was the real "currency" that was used to "purchase" my mitzvos?
I believe it was the emunah muscles I had to flex each time I gave money, whether a dollar or a quarter.
It was the challenge of not only parting with my own money, but the challenge of ignoring the rants of the yetzer hara who challenges the worthiness of every beggar and collector that asks for help.
"Why is it always these types of people" "Why is he asking while I'm praying?" "Wasn't he here 10 minutes ago asking for money?" "They should get jobs instead of taking other people's money" and on and on.
The best response I found was to completely immerse myself in the mida of Hashem's chesed. In that way, it doesn't matter if they are or are not worthy in my eyes - in Hashem's view (lehavdil), as it were, they are all worthy of my tzedakah! It doesn't matter if the guy is coming back to ask for a second time, especially not on Purim.
Similarly, it doesn't matter if all I can afford to give out this year amounts to just $25 - the real currency, strengthening emunah and overcoming the yetzer hara, is present for each person as long as he gives according to his particular income.
From all of this, we should take great joy, for "G-d wished to give Israel merit, therefore he gave them much Torah and many commandments." (Mishnah Makos 3:16)