That thine alms may be in secret
May be done in secret, and be kept a secret. The allusion seems to be to the secret chamber, where money was brought privately for the relief of the poor.
``There were two chambers in the sanctuary, the one was (Myavx tkvl) , "the chamber of secrets", and the other the chamber of vessels: the chamber of secrets was that into which pious persons put (yavxb) , "in secret", and the poor children of good men were maintained out of it privately F17.''The Jews say many things in favour of doing alms privately.
``Greater, (say they F18,) is he that gives alms (rtob) , in secret, than Moses our master.''They tell us F19, that
``R. Jannai seeing a certain man give Zuz (a piece of money) to a poor man publicly, said unto him, it would have been better, if thou hadst not have given him anything, than to have given him in this manner.''This was the practice of the ancient religious Jews, to give their alms privately; but the Scribes and Pharisees had brought that practice into disuse, and which our Lord labours to restore; adding, for encouragement,
and thy Father, which seeth in secret;
beholds all secret actions, and knows the secret springs of actions,
himself shall reward thee openly;
in the great day of account, before angels and men, when all secret things shall be brought to light, and every good man have praise of God. This duty, of giving alms to the poor, is mentioned by Christ before prayer to God; it may be for this reason, because it was usual to give alms before prayer.
``The great, or famous men, among the wise men, used to give a Prutah (a small piece of money) to a poor man before every prayer, and after that they prayed; as it is said, "I shall behold thy face in righteousness" F20.''
F17 Misn. Shekalim, c. 5. sect. 6. Mainnon. Hilch. Eracin, c. 2. sect. 12.
F18 T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 9. 2.
F19 T. Bab. Chagiga, fol. 5. 1.
F20 Maimon. Hilch. Mattanot Anayin, c. 10. sect. 15.