A Teaching About Jewish Responses to Human Need, by Rabbi David Rosenn

 

Rabbi David Rosenn is the Executive Director of Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps (www.avodah.net)

Additional Questions by Naamah Paley, translations by Danny Siegel

Midrash on Pslams 41:2

Translation Original
B. Happy is the person who is maskil in relation to the person in need (ps. 41:2) Rabbi Yonah said: Happy is the one who is maskil and gives to the person in need. What does maskil mean in this case? That the person doing tzedakah takes an intense look and considers the best way to give the person back his or her decent and dignified life.
אשרי משכיל אל דל. אמר ר' יונה: אשרי משכיל ונותן אל דל, מהו משכיל? שמסתכל וחושב עליו היאך להחיותו.

Suggested Discussion Questions

How does this understanding offer alternate insight into methods of giving tzedakah? Does this align with your understanding of giving tzedakah? Does it enhance your understanding?


Blu Greenberg, How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household, (New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., First Fireside, 1985), p. 117-118.

Original
I believe that the purpose of kashrut is to make eating a special experience and to serve as a reminder of a Jew's ethical conscience as well as of the other unique teachings of Judaism. To me, distinctiveness and not separation is the Jew's calling. This feeling is possible in the presence of non-observant Jews and of non-Jews. The values of friendship, human solidarity, and socializing are highly esteemed Jewish values; making a living and exchanging professional service (sometimes performed over a meal) also are respected in Jewish culture. One of the great qualities of the Jewish tradition is its ability to balance contradictions- idealism and realism, Jewish particularism and unusual concern for humanity. Similarly, in the act of eating, one can strike that balance between fidelity to one's own principles and shared friendship and respectful contact with others.

Suggested Discussion Questions

Does this philosophy resonate with you? What social justice themes emerge from this text?


Midrash on Pslams 41:2

Translation Original
B. Happy is the person who is maskil in relation to the person in need (ps. 41:2) Rabbi Yonah said: Happy is the one who is maskil and gives to the person in need. What does maskil mean in this case? That the person doing tzedakah takes an intense look and considers the best way to give the person back his or her decent and dignified life.
אשרי משכיל אל דל. אמר ר' יונה: אשרי משכיל ונותן אל דל, מהו משכיל? שמסתכל וחושב עליו היאך להחיותו.

Suggested Discussion Questions

How does this understanding offer alternate insight into methods of giving tzedakah? Does this align with your understanding of giving tzedakah? Does it enhance your understanding?


Blessings said before eating – from the prayerbook

Translation Original
Blessed are you Lord God King of the World - who brings forth bread from the earth. Blessed are you Lord God King of the World - who creates the fruit of the tree. Blessed are you Lord God King of the World - who creates all kinds of food. [Translation by Big Green Jewish]
ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם המוציא לחם מן הארץ. ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם בורא פרי העץ. ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם בורא מיני מזונות

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. These three blessings are said over bread, fruit, and grain, respectively. What does each reflect about the process of accessing that food?
2. Why do we have different blessings for different foods? Would it be easier to have the same blessing for all foods?
3. How does the process of blessing our food prior to eating it affect our relationship to our food?


Midrash on Pslams 41:2

Translation Original
B. Happy is the person who is maskil in relation to the person in need (ps. 41:2) Rabbi Yonah said: Happy is the one who is maskil and gives to the person in need. What does maskil mean in this case? That the person doing tzedakah takes an intense look and considers the best way to give the person back his or her decent and dignified life.
אשרי משכיל אל דל. אמר ר' יונה: אשרי משכיל ונותן אל דל, מהו משכיל? שמסתכל וחושב עליו היאך להחיותו.

Suggested Discussion Questions

How does this understanding offer alternate insight into methods of giving tzedakah? Does this align with your understanding of giving tzedakah? Does it enhance your understanding?


Leviticus Rabbah 34:1, Margoliot 4:773

Translation Original
C. Rabbi Yonah said: "Happy is the one who gives to the person in need"” is not what the verse says, but rather, “"Happy is the one who is maskil in relation to the person in need," meaning, Look at the situation carefully, and keep in mind how it is a privilege to do the mitzvah through that person.
אמר ר' יונה אשרי נותן אל דל אין כת' כן, אלא אשרי משכיל אל דל, הוי מסתכל בו היאך לזכות בו

Suggested Discussion Questions

Does this explanation offer deeper insight into why you do mitzvot? Is this a relatable explanation?