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1,001 Reasons to Say "No"

Reissued on the occasion of Tzedakah Foundation of Uruguay's Charidy Campaign

Eliezer Shemtov

"Good afternoon, Don Miguel," said the leader of the delegation. "We came here to request your help for the Gomlei Chesed institution. We help hundreds of families with their most basic needs."

"Look," said Don Miguel with a very serious face. "I appreciate the honor you extend to me with your visit, but I must tell you that I carry a great family burden. My brother lost his wife and is left with ten children and not a penny to pay for their schooling. My sister recently got divorced and her husband does not provide anything for his children. All this, plus what it costs to take care of my parents, who are very old...".

"But, with all due respect, Don Miguel!" exclaimed Mr. Epelbaum incredulously. "I understand that you don't help them with anything...".

"Exactly! You understood correctly," replied Don Miguel with a triumphant expression. "If I don't help my own family, why do you expect me to help you?".

We were recently summoned by the leaders of the Tzedakah Foundation of Uruguay to share with us a report of their work. It is really impressive to see the dedication and professionalism of this group of volunteers and professionals, who work to improve the living conditions of hundreds of families and individuals.

Once the presentation was over, we exchanged ideas on how to raise more money.

Ideas were not lacking, of course. When there are two Jews, there are three opinions... especially as to what someone else should do. The conclusion was that we must find a way to educate the public as to the meaning and value of Tzedakah. Tzedakah is not a tax; it is an asset. One of the greatest acquisitions one can obtain in life is the satisfaction of having used one's resources for nobler purposes than the mere personal satisfaction of ephemeral pleasures.

I told them that I had been thinking for some time about publishing a book entitled: 1001 different ways to say "No", and I invited them all to share the authorship with their personal experiences gathered in the trenches of fund-raising....

Then I thought of a modification of the title: 1001 ways to say "No" and how to turn "No" into "Yes".

I don't think the book will ever see the light of day. Be that as it may, the important thing is to evaluate why people find it so hard to respond positively when asked for help.

There is certainly more than one explanation. I believe that one of the main reasons why individuals do not respond positively to requests for help is because of the desire for power and suffering from low self-esteem. When someone comes to ask for a contribution to a cause, the individual thinks, "He's not going to get what he wants out of me. Who does he think he is? Who does he think I am? I'm going to win this contest. No one is going to beat me."

It is not a question of whether he likes to spend or not: what he does not like is to give in.

This same "cheapskate" spends without a second thought when it is a matter of pleasure or status. He can lose a fortune at the casino without batting an eyelash, but when you ask him to donate for a noble cause, he will give you one of the 1001 excuses.

How do you explain this contradiction of attitudes in the same person? Perhaps it is because squandering fortunes in the casino is a way of expressing his power. He is so powerful that he can squander millions without batting an eyelash. But when someone comes to him requesting help for a community project or service, he expresses his power by saying: "No. This one won't get anything out of me. I am more powerful and shrewd than he is".

It is important to understand this dynamic in order to help not only the person who needs to receive the money, but also the person who needs to acquire the pleasure of giving it.

The one who says "no" is very often a weak person who needs to bully the one he perceives as weaker. Teaching him to say "yes" will make him truly strong by learning to say "no" to his own instinct to say "no".....

Our sages put it very succinctly: more than what the rich man does for the poor man is what the poor man does for the rich man. The rich give the poor nothing more than something material and limited, while the poor give the rich the opportunity to grow spiritually.

In 2003, the then General Director of the DGI, Cr. Eduardo Zaidensztat, promoted the initiative of "tax education" in schools. The idea consisted of the following: "Through entertaining activities and games, explain to children why it is important that their parents demand their receipts when paying for goods or services and what is done with their tax money," he explained.

"Ethical and moral values must be instilled in children, who are in fact the best disseminators, who can get the job done in the medium and long term. When we were children we did not know the word environment or ecosystem. After several years, our children now talk to us about the problems of the environment and the ecosystem". (Source:

The idea is as simple as it is brilliant:

People act based on what they feel. You can't feel what you don't understand, and you can't understand what you don't know. You have to start by informing people about the concepts they surely don't know or don't pay enough attention to.

And that change of attitude must begin at the school level.

The same applies to Tzedakah. The natural reaction when one is asked to contribute is: "Why should I give someone else the money I generated with blood, sweat and tears?

While one may try to convince him of the value and importance of solidarity and caring for others, he will find much less resistance and more acceptance if he manages to show him that it is —after everything is said and done— for his own benefit: the more he gives, the more he receives. It is not an expense, but an investment, with an infinite and eternal return!

What are the personal benefits that one perceives when giving Tzedakah?

There is more than one answer. It depends on who you are talking to. The point here is that when one is going to ask, one should think not only about how to get a donation to help a third party, but how to help the potential donor himself to have the pleasure of giving.

Excerpt from Editorial Kesher 68

KISLEV 5779 / SUMMER 2018-2019.

If you got the invitation to donate to Fundación Tzedaká, I suggest that you don't ask yourself "how much is the minimum I have to give", but rather "how much is the maximum I can give?".


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