Parashat B'har

Reaching Out To Those In Need

Numerous translators of the Bible understand differently the specifics of the command to strengthen those that are falling low, but all agree on the importance of its fulfillment.

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These are questions with parallels in contemporary political debates across North America. Yet all the commentators agree that willingness to reach out to a person in need is a basic religious value, and that economic power brings with it the responsibility to act justly.

In fact, the Chafetz Chaim [20th century rabbinic luminary], paraphrasing an earlier midrash, says that in the World to Come, one will be questioned about all the observances that one kept or didn't keep, but it will be a "great and terrible thing" when they ask if one kept the mitzvah (commandment) of "strengthening one's brother."

He continues by reminding us that there will come a moment in everyone's life when a poor person, or a troubled person, or a desperate person, will come to you for help--at that moment, you have a choice, to help or not, to fulfill this basic mitzvah or to turn your back, to "strengthen your brother" (or sister) or to "let his hand falter beside you."

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Rabbi Neal J. Loevinger

Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger is currently the rabbi of Temple Beth-El in Poughkeepsie, NY. A former student at Kolel, he served as Kolel's Director of Outreach from late 1999-2001. He was ordained in the first graduating class of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of the University of Judaism, and holds a Master's of Environmental Studies from York University in Toronto.