Deuteronomy 15:7-11

 

דברים טו:ז-יא

Original Text:

כִּי יִהְיֶה בְךָ אֶבְיוֹן מֵאַחַד אַחֶיךָ בְּאַחַד שְׁעָרֶיךָ בְּאַרְצְךָ אֲשֶׁר ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ לֹא תְאַמֵּץ אֶת לְבָבְךָ וְלֹא תִקְפֹּץ אֶת יָדְךָ מֵאָחִיךָ הָאֶבְיוֹן:
כִּי פָתֹחַ תִּפְתַּח אֶת יָדְךָ לוֹ וְהַעֲבֵט תַּעֲבִיטֶנּוּ דֵּי מַחְסֹרוֹ אֲשֶׁר יֶחְסַר לוֹ:
הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן יִהְיֶה דָבָר עִם לְבָבְךָ בְלִיַּעַל לֵאמֹר קָרְבָה שְׁנַת הַשֶּׁבַע שְׁנַת הַשְּׁמִטָּה וְרָעָה עֵינְךָ בְּאָחִיךָ הָאֶבְיוֹן וְלֹא תִתֵּן לוֹ וְקָרָא עָלֶיךָ אֶל ה' וְהָיָה בְךָ חֵטְא:
נָתוֹן תִּתֵּן לוֹ וְלֹא יֵרַע לְבָבְךָ בְּתִתְּךָ לוֹ כִּי בִּגְלַל הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה יְבָרֶכְךָ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל מַעֲשֶׂךָ וּבְכֹל מִשְׁלַח יָדֶךָ:

(יא) כִּי לֹא יֶחְדַּל אֶבְיוֹן מִקֶּרֶב הָאָרֶץ עַל כֵּן אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ לֵאמֹר פָּתֹחַ תִּפְתַּח אֶת יָדְךָ לְאָחִיךָ לַעֲנִיֶּךָ וּלְאֶבְיֹנְךָ בְּאַרְצֶךָ: ס

Translation:

If, however, there is a needy person among you, one of your kin in any of your settlements in the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kin. Rather, you must open your hand and lend them sufficient for whatever they need. Beware lest you harbor the base thought, "The seventh year, the year of remission, is approaching," so that you are mean to your needy kins and give him nothing. They will cry out ot the Lord against you, and you will incur guilt. Give to them readily and have no regrets when you do so, for in return the Lord your God will bless you in all your efforts and in all your undertakings. For there will never cease to be needy ones in your land, which is why I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy kinsman in your land. [JPS translation. Edited for gender neutrality]

Suggested Discussion Questions:

1) How do you think God might ‘bless people in their work’ for giving to the poor?
2) Traditional Jews believe that all texts appear in the bible for a reason. If so, why are we told, “there will never cease to be needy ones in your land?”
3) Do you believe that we can ever satisfy all human needs? If not, then why do we continue to try?

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Related Sourcesheets:Texts on Social Change v. Social Action, Hillel of Greater Philadelphia Staff Training: G'milut Hasadim (Acts of Lovingkindness), Top Ten List of Best Economic Justice Jewish Texts (AJWS), Urban Tzedakah Values, Rabbi Aaron Levy (Part 1 of 2), Shemitah as a Model for Debt Relief, Jewish Perspectives on Lending and Debt Relief, Pikuach Nefesh: Saving a Life- Discussion Questions, Biblical references to tzedakah, Occupy Atlanta- "Do not harden your heart and shut your hand", Text Study on Poverty, If You're Egalitarian, How Come You're So Rich?, Gender & Poverty

Comments on this Text

1. What does opening your hand wide mean? How can we best help the needy?
2. What does this obligation consist of? When have we 'opened our hand' enough, if ever?
3. Where is 'your land?' Is that the world? Your city? Your country?