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Weekly Drash - Re'eh

Compliments of First Fruits of Zion
reprinted by permission of FFOZ

Re’eh ראה : “Behold”
Torah : Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17
Haftarah : Isaiah 54:11–55:5
Gospels : Acts 8–9 


The Mitzvah of Charity


Thought for the Week:

The story is told of when Rabbi Akiva got married. He and his wife were so poor they had only straw to sleep on. One night Heaven tested them and sent Elijah disguised as a stranger to knock at the door. He cried, “Please help me. My wife is in confinement and doesn’t even have straw to lay on.” Akiva got up and gave him the straw and said, “You see, there is a man who does not even have straw!” (Nedarim 50a)



Deuteronomy 15:7–11. Charity is one of the central pillars of Torah. It is a reflection of God’s very nature. It is grace itself. The Master quotes the Deuteronomy 17:11 saying, “You always have the poor with you,” (John 12:8), and He expects us to give generously to them. A majority of the Master’s teachings have to do with the subject of giving charity. He assumes that we will give charity, saying, “When you give to the poor…” (Matthew 6:2) He points out that even the hypocrites give charity. After all, the giving of charity is a commandment of the Torah. Conversely, there is a prohibition, “not to deny charity to the poor.” (N232) We are under obligation to ‘freely open our hand to our brother, to the needy and the poor.’ (15:11)

The Talmud states it this way: “Everybody is obliged to give charity; even one who himself is dependent on charity should give to those less fortunate than himself.” (b.Gittin 7a) You can always find someone less fortunate.

All of the Apostolic Scriptures, and especially the Pauline epistles, are packed with encouragements to give to those in need and to give generously. Giving generously was a natural reflex of the First Century believers. Paul regards giving generously as a proper response of gratitude for the grace which God has bestowed upon us.

When we give charity, it should be done subtly and quietly. Yeshua tells us that when we give, we are not to announce with trumpets, i.e. we are not to make a show out of it, “that your giving be in secret.” (Matthew 6:4) Reb Yannai once saw somebody giving a zuz to a poor man in the market place. He said, “It were better not to have given him anything rather than to have given him and shamed him.” (b.Hagigah 5a) How much should we give? Perhaps this is the wrong question? The true disciple asks “How much more can I give? How can I find a way to give more?”

In the Midrash Rabbah it says, “The poor man does more for the giver than the giver does for the poor man.” (Leviticus Rabbah 34:8) Why? Because the poor man gives the givers the opportunity to perform a mitzvah.

When we come across those in need, our hearts should leap with joy because suddenly we have the opportunity to do a mitzvah. Suddenly we have the opportunity to return to God some of the wealth he has bestowed upon us.


Shavuah Tov!  Have a Good Week!


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