Torah tells us that giving charity is an obligation for all. Who shall receive this charity and how much should be given?
In this week’s text Moses continues his discourses to the Israelites before they enter the Promised Land. He focuses on the laws and commandments they must follow in the new land. These include the dietary laws, warnings against following false prophets, tithing responsibilities, and remission of debt and freeing of Israelite slaves during the Shabbat of the Land which is to occur every seven years. Moses also focuses on the concept of charity.
While researching my comments for this week I read the following about the giving of charity on the current Aish.com website (http://www.aish.com/tp/b/1-min-vort/217292971.html ). Instead of writing my usual column, I would like to share the ideas presented in this article. I would be interested in learning what you think about the ideas presented.
One Minute Vort on the Parsha
By Rabbi Eli Scheller – Practical and Relevant Insights for Everyone
Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)
Some Clarity in Charity
Rather, you shall open your hand to him; you shall lend him his requirement, whatever is lacking to him. (Deut. 15:8)
The Torah tells that we should give a person “whatever he is lacking to him.” The Sages learn from the words “to him” that we must give charity according to each individual’s needs. If a person was wealthy and lived an extravagant lifestyle and then became poor, we must give him to the extent that he can live in accordance with his previous standing. If he used to drive a fancy car, we must get him that car. The question arises: if I myself would never pay so much, why must I pay for him?
An important factor in the act of giving charity is to ensure the emotional well-being of the beneficiary. When a person loses his assets the emotional strain may be greater than the physical one. When a wealthy person loses his fancy car the embarrassment is unbearable. It is equivalent to a pauper who is evicted from his apartment, even though the wealthy person can still live a normal life. Therefore, providing the wealthy person with his fancy car is literally giving him his life back just as much as paying the rent for a pauper.
It is for this reason that one who provides a poor person with money and adds kind words of encouragement receives twice as many blessings from God for adding the kind words as he does for simply giving the money!(1)
It takes a special person to be able to recognize the emotional needs of another, especially one from a different background. The Talmud (2) relates that Hillel, who was perhaps the poorest Torah scholar, raised money for a wealthy man who lost his money to purchase a horse to ride upon and a slave to run before him. On one occasion he could not find a slave to run before him, so Hillel took his place and ran for three miles! Despite Hillel’s poverty, he was able to understand the needs of a wealthy man – to the extent of personally providing those needs!
1. Tosafos Baba Basra 9b.
2. Kesubos 67b.
About Rabbi Scheller – Originally from New York, rabbi Eli Scheller has spent a significant amount of time in Israel, training as an outreach professional, lecturing and leading Shabbatons. After earning his rabbinical ordination, he moved to Los Angeles. Currently he resides in Baltimore where he teaches through is program, J-BAL, a division of Etz Chaim.
Artwork shown above, “Giving to the Poor” by David Castillo Dominici, courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net