What do you think about giving tzedaka to get things in return?

The greatest piece of frum community catalog type literature is the Oorah Chinese auction catalog. It can be seen in countless frum homes sually sitting on top of a pile of mail, old yateds or stacked in the bathroom next to the stacks of old fraying readers digests and consumer reports, which seem to be the only secular reading material many frummies own. The shiny pages full of “prizes” that you can “win” in you “donate” tzedaka.

Now I have always been a little bothered by all this donating to win business. I assume, maybe wrongly so that since it is a frum organization they have properly researched the halachos in order to insure that everyone making generous contributions can be counted as tzedaka, and can in fact entice people to give more since they are getting something out of it. The only reason I take issue with this is because it seems like the whole point of tzedaka was to give over a piece of your self without getting anything in return, save for the knowledge that you are fulfilling a very important mitzvah and helping those in need out, when you receive something in return, the intentions get kind of screwy.

Ok that aside, I guess I just don’t give to Oorah because I don’t think I am going to win, I know its kind of contradictory what I am saying, almost funny in fact. I dislike the fact I am getting something in return for my charity, but I wont give because I know I have no chance of winning. I know this because thousands of people have those catalogs in their bathrooms across the tri-state area, and therefore they all probably want to win the kitchen set or the silver paradise, or whatever clever names they came up with for the shietle and fall set.

So being the hypocrite I am I was sent something from The Shmuz, which is one of my favorite sites on the internet. I also happen to have been in yeshiva while Rabbi Shafier the Rabbi that gives many of the talks, was still teaching and delivering his talks in the beis medrish every Thursday. The Shmuz is a big practitioner of the “give tzedaka and get something in return” they have loads of ways on their website in which you can donate money and get free stuff. So unlike the auction where you may not even get anything, and may in fact be pissed off that you gave tzedaka without getting anything in return besides a glossy catalog to add to your bathroom reading material. The Shmuz actually gives you free stuff, yes it goes against what I said up there, and I may feel guilty, but at least I am getting something.

They do things all the time, one of the ongoing things they have to entice you into learning and giving tzedaka at the same time is to give a fully stocked Ipod Nano with 150 mussar shmuzem for free with your donation of $1000, so of course it aint free, and it gets you to learn. I may be biased, but besides for Paysach Krohn I never heard a shmuz CD that I liked and I driove a lot and have the opportunity to listen to tons of them. Maybe its because most of them talk in yeshivish talk and I cant understand them, the sphardi guys I cant stand either and I am left with Rabbi Shafier and his regular old New York speak, nothing fancy, any old BT would understand him and he actually mixes politics, history, current events and secular cultural ideas within his shmuz, and its not just a barrage on all of the evils.

At the top of their page it states that they are having a $100,000 raffle. Now normally I hate raffles, the only time I won, they gave me a computer without all the things needed to make it operate and even then it was crappy. But this time in fine print something they said made me actually consider throwing down $100 of my maisser money for the cause. The raffle is limited to 15,000 tickets, which means your chances of winning the big prize are not that bad, way better then scratch off tickets and slot machines in fact.