Restoring Wealth And Dignity
When a member of our community becomes poor we must restore his/her dignity as well as money.
Provided by Hillel's Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning, which creates educational resources for Jewish organizations on college campuses.
Parashat Re'eh, continues Moses' farewell speech to the Children of Israel. In it, Moses anticipates their entry into the Land of Israel and the covenantal relationship upon which their success in the Land depends. Moses discusses the implications of their covenant with God and pays special attention the societal obligations that it imparts to them--and to us.
In that context we read (Deuteronomy, Chapter 15, Verses 7-8): "If, however, there is a needy person among you, one of your kinsmen in any of your settlements in the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman. Rather, you must open your hand and provide him that which is sufficient for all he is lacking."
Your Bible Navigator
1. How do we measure the "lacking" for which we are obligated to provide?
2. What, if any, are the limits on our obligation?
3. Are there circumstances under which we can refuse to help?
4. Exactly what loss are we making up for?
5. What is the nature of the obligation of Tzedakah as understood by these passages?
Talmud, Tractate Ketuboth 67b
The rabbis taught: "That which is sufficient..."--You are commanded to provide a pauper with sustenance [i.e. his basic needs] but you are not commanded to make him wealthy.
"for all he is lacking"--Even if he is lacking a horse to ride upon and a servant to run before him, you must provide these for him. It is said that Hillel the Elder regularly took a horse and a servant for a pauper who was of aristocratic parentage. Once, when he could not find a servant [available] to run before the pauper, Hillel himself ran before him for three millin [a distance of about 2 miles].
The rabbis taught: If an orphan boy and an orphan girl come before the administrators of a charity fund to be supported, we first provide for the girl and then we provide for the boy. For it is common for a man to go begging from door to door but not for a woman [who would therefore be more embarrassed].
The rabbis taught: When an orphan boy comes for charity funds in order to get married, we rent a house for him, supply him with a bed and all the furnishings required for his use, and only then do we marry off a wife to him, for it says, "You must open your hand and provide him that which is sufficient for all he is lacking."
Your Talmud Navigator
1. What is the difference between "providing for that which is lacking" (for which we are obligated), and "making him wealthy" (for which we are not obligated)?
2. In the anecdote regarding Hillel the Elder, what is the significance of the information that the pauper involved was of aristocratic parentage? Would it have made a difference had he been a pauper the son of paupers? Why?
3. Based on the last excerpt quoted from the Talmud, whose responsibility is it to ascertain "that which is lacking?" On what basis is that determination made?
4. What reason does the Talmud give for the requirement that the Fund administrators help the pauper girl before the pauper boy? How might the principle involved deepen our understanding of the rest of this Talmudic passage?
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