Question: When was the last time you invited a widow or orphan or an elderly couple or unmarried mom to your Shabbat or Yom Tov table, or sukkah, or Pesach seder? I mean really invite them as true equals and out of true love, not just out of chesed or obligation?
The caring of the fatherless orphans and the widows is a long tradition under the law. But it seems to me that in today’s policies that we have, as communities, forgotten that this law still applies. It is as if, because we are free from the bond of the law, we seem to think that it allows us to ignore the needs of our families and the needs of the many people in our communities.
When we say to Hashem that we love Him and yet neglect those in the most need of care and assistance, we forget that we are to care for those in need and are less fortunate. When Hashem spoke to Moses and gave him the law, He spoke to the Nation of Israel. He established the nation of His people. The law was not only for the individual but for community. Not only for the Nation and its people but also for the leaders of the community and for the leaders of each tribe of the Sons of Abraham. It became the responsibility of the individual to obey and to serve Hashem’s will.
The point I am making is, that it is still our responsibility to see to the welfare and care of them. We cannot ignore or allow each other to neglect or abandon the needs of the elderly or the very young. It is a matter of understanding and obeying Hashem’s will, as set down by His law given to Moses in the desert.
And now, O Israel, what does your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good. It is followed by telling who Hashem is to the people and how His might is great. Hashem is impartial and takes no bribes. The next thing on His list is “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widows, and the alien, giving them food and clothing.”
This was the beginning of Hashem’s Law for the care of the fatherless and the widows. Those who were without defenders, had Hashem as the advocate. The third year tithe was for the purpose of supporting the Levites, the sojourners and the fatherless and widows. It was to be a shared responsibility of the community for the needs of the helpless and for those who had no support. Hashem told His people of how He looked upon the care of the needing and the homeless. He also commanded that they “When you reap your harvest,…beat your olive trees, …gather your grapes…. do not go back. It is for the fatherless orphans, the sojourners and the widows. When the Children of Israel were to enter in the feasts of the Passover, they were to include the fatherless and the widows and the travelers in with their own families so that they would not be excluded. This was also true of Shavuot and Sukkot. Hashem did not want them to be left out of anything that pertained to His Blessings.
The last verse that I want to include here is: “When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levites (priests), the sojourner (migrants), the fatherless (orphans and abandoned children), and the widows, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled, then you shall say before the Lord your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover, I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless and the widow, according to all your commandments, nor have I forgotten them.”
Somehow we have blocked the commandment of community aid to the orphans and widows as we were told to by Hashem’s own words. We have put up barriers on our hearts to prevent us from seeing to their needs. It is because we have failed at this task. We must return to the law of Hashem and we shall be blessed. Because if we fail in the care of our weakest members of society, we have transgressed against Hashem, we have forgotten how He has commanded us to protect the weak and defend the defenseless.
IY”H, may we all be zoche to awaken our hidden compassion for our fellow Yidden who are less fortunate, as true rachmanim bnei rachmanim. Le-Shanah tovah tikateivu le-alter, lechayim tovim.
By Yehiel Levy