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    Your poor brother – Re’eh

    homeless man poverty poor charityThe verse, “Do not shut your hand from your needy brother” (Deut. 15:7) tells us that even if we possess very little we should open our hand to assist the poor person, not tightly clench our hand and decide not to support him.

    Rashi says, “If you withhold your hand from him, you yourself will become needy”.

    It’s a doctrine of reciprocal expediency – sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander: if you refuse to help others, then others may refuse to help you.

    The verse implies, in addition, a concept of family responsibility: poor or rich, the needy person is “your brother”.

    True brothers and sisters support one another. When one is in pain, the others feel it. When one is successful, they all rejoice.

    There is a saying, “Family is family”. Rabbinical life sometimes illustrated this for me in truly vivid fashion. I remember to this day how when one member of a certain family needed assistance, the others (and their parents) all came good with immediate support.

    Unfortunately I also remember disappointing families where there was coldness and disdain, and certain members of a family gloated at others’ misfortunes to the extent of not even attending the funeral of a sibling or coming to visit the shivah house.

    The fact that the coldness sometimes came from supposedly religious people who were regular shule-goers, only compounds the tragedy.

    True religion is in the verse quoted above: “Do not shut your hand from your needy brother”.

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