May 22, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 22, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

“And if your brother becomes impoverished, and his hand falters in your proximity, you should hold onto him.” Our parsha describes a scenario where a member of our community falls under hard times, and the Torah advises us how we are meant to act toward such a person.

There appears to be a seeming incongruity in the flow of the pasuk. The pasuk describes a situation where someone’s “hand falters”—in which case the seemingly appropriate reaction would be for us to hold his hand and help pick it back up. And yet the Torah encourages something more: Not only that we hold this individual’s hand, but that we hold “him”—we hold onto the entire person.

With this very subtle shift in language, the Torah is teaching us a crucial lesson regarding helping those in need. When those around us are faced with a certain challenge or difficulty, and we are in a position to help them, we must do so with the utmost sensitivity and care. We must make sure to not simply define this person by their challenge or circumstance, but rather to see the whole person and view their particular challenge within the full picture.

If a peer of ours faces financial hardships, and he reaches his hand out to us for help, we must not simply embrace his hand—but embrace the person. We should not define this person based on this particular challenge, nor should we make him feel embarrassed for coming to us. We are charged with embracing him—showing him empathy, understanding and care. If we are able to do that, then our help will extend far beyond any financial assistance we may be able to provide him with.

While this message is something that many of us know intellectually, it is hard to properly live it in daily life. We are approached often—sometimes in our homes, sometimes at shul, sometimes around town—with people asking us for financial assistance. We are often busy or in a rush. The easiest thing is to ignore them, or hurriedly pass them a dollar to assuage our conscience, and then move on with our lives.

And yet the Torah encourages us to do more. Despite our busy schedules and daily stresses, the Torah pushes us to not define these people simply as “shnorrers” or “meshulachim”—simply as hands looking for a buck that we can easily dismiss. Rather we should realize that these are real people, with real stories and real struggles. There is an entire person behind that hand, a person who needs to be held up and acknowledged. This does not mean we must always give them money—but it does mean that we should strive to always greet them with a smile, and perhaps even a cup of cold water. It means we should be gracious enough to give them a minute of our time to explain themselves and their situation. And regardless of whether we are able to help them financially or not, to allow them to leave with a smile and a kind word of encouragement.

This value—how to treat someone in need—is a crucial value that we need to pass on to our children. In this area in particular, our children will learn much more from what we do than what we say. If we preach the importance of chesed to our kids and helping others, but each time the doorbell rings on Sunday afternoon we roll our eyes and say “here they are again,” our children will learn that chesed is only important when it’s convenient. But if we model for our children that when a needy person comes to our home, we offer them a smile and cup of water/coffee (of course taking into account safety considerations!), then we are raising them to not simply see the hand, but to see the entire person. We are teaching them that sometimes a warm smile and a kind word goes as far, if not farther, than everything else.

In this week’s parsha, the Torah encourages us to not simply help our friend in need, but to support the entire person, and see beyond his particular challenge or struggle.


Rav Yossi Goldin is the menahel tichon at Yeshivas Pe’er HaTorah, rebbe at Midreshet Tehilla, and placement adviser/internship coordinator for the YU/RIETS Kollel. He lives with his family in Shaalvim and can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles