August 7, 2018

Give what they need (Re’eh)

Among the many laws found in Parshat Re’eh is the instruction to provide the poor with whatever they need (see Devarim 15:7). Understood literally, it means that we must ensure that the poor are provided with basic food & housing. However, the Rabbis (Talmud Bavli, Ketuvot 67a) derived an additional rule from this verse, which is that we must also concern ourselves with the psychological welfare of those who have suffered, or are suffering, hard times. For example, if someone was previously affluent but has lost all their money, we should try and help them in such a way that they don’t feel that they’ve lost their dignity, even though they’ve lost their money. 
But poverty comes in many different forms, and while a person may have sufficient food and shelter, they may have other needs. If someone always wished to learn more about Judaism but lacks Jewish knowledge or literacy, then it is the responsibility of their friends, family and community to share what they have (ie. knowledge). Similarly, a person may suffer from low self-esteem. Here too, we are duty-bound to provide the ‘poor’ with whatever they need, and in this case, help the individual nurture a sense of self-value.  
However, it was during a recent talk from Rabbi Paysach Krohn when I heard what I think is one of the most beautiful examples of providing the ‘poor’ with whatever they need. Rabbi Krohn explained that his father passed away when he was 21 years old and how, each week, he missed receiving his Friday night blessing from his father. Many years later, he delivered a talk to an organisation that supports young women who have lost one or both parents, and from his discussion, he realised that these young women also desperately missed receiving a Friday night blessing. Rabbi Krohn wished to find a way to diminish that pain, and after some research, he did. Now, every Thursday afternoon, he records a short message and a blessing which is sent directly to the cellphones of those young women on an Erev Shabbat. When they hear his blessing,, they feel that they are not alone, and while they still miss their parent, they are deeply grateful to receive this message. 
As we begin the month of Ellul it is an opportune time to look around and ask ourselves how we can help those we know with what they need, and like Rabbi Krohn, try and find ways to help. 

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