Re’eh (2) – To Give Or Not To Give
The Torah, in its discussion of our attitude toward giving charity, reports that poor people will never cease to be present among us. (Deuteronomy 15:11) A few verses earlier, in the context of loaning money the Torah states that ‘there will be no poor among you for G-d will bless you…’ (15:4)
Now, there is obviously a problem here since both verses cannot be fulfilled. Either there will be a time when, if we follow the dictates of the Torah concerning open-handedness to the poor, we will succeed in eradicating poverty, or there will never be such a time when there are no poor among us. It cannot be both.
This is a point discussed by the commentaries and a classic explanation offered is as follows: When the Torah asserts that there will be no poor among us, the emphasis is “among us.” That is, there will be no poor people within our own communities and our own relatives. However, there will always be needy people, who are not from our inner circle, who we are expected to help out.
The Torah offers a promise, a commitment, that needy people will always be present. Why does the Torah promise such a thing? Is it a benefit? Is it good for us?
Our sages state that more than a contributor does for the needy, the needy person does for the contributor. Common practice is for the recipient to be grateful and say thank you to the benefactor, but our sages imply that it should be the benefactor who thanks the recipient!
One of our objectives in life is for a person to develop one’s character into that of a good, kind and compassionate person. We must emulate G-d and our sages point out that just as G-d is merciful and full of grace we are also bidden to be thus. One cannot become a giving person without actually giving. Once cannot become a compassionate person if there is no one to have compassion upon. T