Wednesday, May 09, 2007

B'har: on equal footing

Parshat B'har

In 25:35-36 the Torah says, "וכי ימוך אחיך ...והחזקת בו.. וחי אחיך עמך" - when your brother shall become poor.. and you should support him.. that your brother should live with you. The passuk goes on to talk about not charging interest, etc.

It is not enough to give a little tzedakka. You have to support your fellow Jew who became poor. "Your brother should live with you." You have to support him enough that he can live with you. On equal footing.

Don't make him sell his house and move to a lower class neighborhood. Help him get by and back on his own feet while continuing to be part of the community with respect.

The gemara says that one must support a fellow jew with tzedakka to live at the level he is accustomed to.

Your brother shall live with you. Don't just support him to help him live. Supprot him at the level that he can continue living with you. On equal footing.


Futzuman said...

Yesher Koach!

Please G-d, people should read your article and take it to heart.

To sweeten-up your words a little bit, it can be suggested that the Hebrew word צדקה (tzedakka) comes from the Hebrew צדק which translates to righteousness (not charity as צדקה is often translated to.)

The difference:
Charity implies that one is giving to his fellow Jew out of the giver's good nature, kind heart, or whatever other person motivations. The reasons for charity, as sincere as they may be, are still motivated by the giver's own self.

Righteousness, on the other hand, implies that one is giving not because of his/her own personal motivations, but because it's the "right thing to do."

For instance, when Reuven realizes that that second slice of bread on his plate actually "belongs" to the poor Shimon down the street (despite the fact that Hashem put it on Reuvens own plate) then giving it over to Shimon is the "right" thing to do -- and not the charitable thing to do!

In fact, taking it a step forward it can be said that second slice of bread never belong to Reuven to begin with, Hashem simply deposited it with him so that he can gain a mitzvah when he returns it to Shimon, its rightful owner.

(Incidentally, the word "Mitzvah" comes from צוותא meaning togetherness -- Reuven walking over to Shimon to return that slice of bread creates togetherness between them.)

Tzedakka, then, is a mitzvah infused with a sense of responsibility than it would have been if it was only plain charity.

When Jews see the concept of tzedakka in this light, with the true meaning of צדק, it is a receipt for a healthier society -- with lots of togetherness.

Rafi G. said...

very nice! shkoyach!

Anonymous said...


I heard recently from R'Tatz that the expression used related to tzedakah is "gomel tzedakah" which could be translated as "to wean tzedakah". That is, you give tzedakah with the purpose of putting the other person back on his feet and not just to keep giving.

I am almost sure I read this expression somewhere in Chumash. But I can't find it right now.

Shabbat Shalom.