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Parashat Re'eh (English)



Yehoshua Lhungdim


If there shall be a destitute person among you, any of your brethren in any of your cities, in your land that Hashem, your god, gives you, you shall not harden your heart or close your hand against your destitute brother. Rather you shall open your hand. . . . . [devarim 15:7-8]

If we look into our pasuk above we will see that there is order of priorities. And our sages of blessed memory derive the order of priorities one should follow in giving charity from this verse.

What is the meaning of the verse if there shall be a destitute person among you? The sifri told us that among you means someone among you takes precedence and not among others. And the torah temimah states that among you and not among others to tell us to only provide a goy so that there may be peace between you and them. [gittin 61a]

Rashi and the sifri states that destitute among you means even among you, you should help the most destitute person first. Likewise the verse first speak of destitute person and after that your brethren. I. E. The closer the relative, the greater the obligation, and after your brethren comes the poor in your cities which takes precedence over any other cities and after all those cities comes your land(eretz yIsrael) which takes precedence over any other land.

Rabbi Nakhman writes in his work likkutey moharan 1:37 that charity given for the needy in Israel is greater than charity for causes outside the land. When you give charity for the land of Israel you are included in the air of the land of Israel, which is holy breath without the taint of sin. Moreso when you give to the poor in your cities and moreso to the most destitute.

Ohr hakhayim states that the saying among you maybe means to tell us what the sages say in masechet bava bathra 10a which says that the reason why god chooses to torment a person in this world with the sufferings of the poor is so that through it, it will benefit his helper. The poor people provide the rich with a priceless opportunity, for those who give charity are richly rewarded by god; thus the giver gains even more than the receiver. And this is what the torah hinted by saying among you destitute(poor) to tell us that for your reason comes poorness to him so that you will be able to help him and merit life of the world to come. And the continuation of the verse from among your brethren means to tell us that seeing our poor brethren we should not think that he is inferior. We must know that he is the most special one among our brothers, and there is no evidence from his poorness that he is the most inferior from among our brothers. And we see in masechet taanit 25b a part of the tanaim who are very poor like rabbi khanina ben dosa and rabbi elazar ben pedat.

Ohr hakhayim continues by saying that the order of priorities also comes to tell us the order of decrees god will decree to the poor. As the ohr hakhayim already interpreted the verse in shemot 22:24, "when you lend money to my people to the poor person who is with you. . . . "that a portion of the poor person is entrusted to the rich person by god, and this is the rich person's wealth, that is entrusted in his hands. I. E. The poor person portions. Sometimes god entrusted the poor person portions to someone close to the poor person so that the poor person will not suffer in taking his livelihood from him, as he is someone close and he will not need to wander in the road to seek his livelihood. And when god judges justly to make the poor person suffer, god will distance his(poor person) livelihood to a stranger, also to a faraway place and the poor person will need to wander from place to place to find the place god entrusted his livelihood.

A story is said of the ohev yIsrael that one time a khasid come to him to ask for some amount of money so that he may marry his children. The ohev yIsrael writes a letter stating that he, the ohev yIsrael sends this person for the amount of money the person needed and send him to a place in which a rich person live.

The khasid went to the place the Rav told him and give the letter to the rich person but the rich person after reading the letter told the khasid that he never heard of the Rav and there is no connection between him and the Rav so why should he give the khasid. Therefore he send the khasid away without giving any money.

The khasid returned to the Rav empty handed and told the Rav of all the matter. The Rav hearing the matter sigh and told the khasid to go to his student Avramele who resides in the end of the town and to ask him 500 rubles in the Rav's name. The khasid went there and told Avramele what the Rav told him and Avramele hearing this, told his wife and they both began collecting their sellable valuables to sell them but after selling them they got only 320 rubles which is 180 rubles less. So they wander from place to place begging and after a long day of begging they succeeded in completing the exact amount and they returned happily and gave it to the khassid.

The Rav seeing the khasid returned happily bless his student Avramele and afterwards Avramele became rich but the rich person after sending the khassid away empty handed became poor. And after becoming so poor the rich person’s wife told him that their poorness maybe due to sending the khasid away empty handed and disrespecting the Rav. So the rich person wife told him to go the Rav. Left with no other choice the rich person went to the Rav and asked for his forgiveness. The ohev yIsrael told him that before his(ohev yIsrael) coming to this world he was asked if he wanted to be rich but he declined it saying that if he were to be rich it may affect his torah study. So he entrusted his to-be-wealth to this rich person but the rich person on refusing to give what the Rav demands or asked of him to give to the khasid loses his accountability so he was replaced by the Rav student, avramele. And it cannot be changed again because he is not trustable anymore. And Avramele on knowing that all his money is not his money but his Rav money entrusted to him by god always gives charity, help the poor, gives livelihood to the rich person who becomes poor and live happily.

The ben ish khai say that the gematria of tzedeka in his full letters [צדקה. I. E. צדי, דלת, קוף, הה]is the same gematria of mitzvot [מצות] which means the mitzvah of tzedeka includes inside itself all the mitzvot of the torah as our sages say one who does tzedeka is considered as if he fulfill all the mitzvot. The mitzvah of tzedeka is so great that it brings the redemption nearer and it saves the giver from death. See more on sefer hamidot of rabbi nakhman on charity.

May we merit to be a giver and may Hashem bless us with a sufficient amount of wealth so that we may study the torah with peace of mind. Shabbat shalom.

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