To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

- Ecclesiastes 3:1


Dear Friends,

Our Torah portion this Shabbat is Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17).  The parsha opens with the reminder that constantly before us are choices and with those decisions will come consequences (11:26-28).  We tend to think of cause and effect in its immediacy:  we do something and the response happens soon thereafter.  But our parsha speaks of the longterm ramifications of our actions:  blessings and misfortunes which will play out over time.

There is a poignant model for this in response to helping those who are in debt (15:1-11).  Attempting to eliminate the neediness of others within the community, the Torah calls upon us to listen intently to the obligations that we have in creating a just society (15:5) for as Rashi states, only then will there be no needy among us (his reference to the preceding verse, 15:4).  In essence, we are beckoned to live in a way that all forms of neediness will be addressed.  What a profound, awesome and perhaps neverending quest.  And yet to succeed at it in some way, even in a small way, will bring blessing into our lives and the lives of others.

Certainly, we cannot help but be aware of the neediness in our society today.  The lines for assistance only grow longer at food pantries and soup kitchens. The charitable donation bins for clothing and the social service centers which provide aid for daily necessities seem to be ubiquitous in every city and town.  The needs of daily survival portrayed in films depicting the dystopian horrors of future post-apocalyptic struggles are in actuality being experienced today.  And yet, our understanding of neediness and indebtedness extends beyond the literal sense of those concepts.

There is a profound neediness which stems from feelings of isolation, of loneliness and despair.  The cry of the disenfranchised, the homeless, the poor; the longings of the elderly as well as the diminished hopes of the young all speak to a neediness which only grows each day.

The Torah warns us "shamoah tishma," (15:5) "only if you listen carefully," only if you choose to sensitize yourself to the needs of others rather than attempting to close yourself off from the incessant din of neediness will there be any possibility of eliminating the poverty of body, mind and spirit.  In our choices, we will experience blessing when we live with a constant awareness and  responsiveness to addressing the neediness in every aspect of life.

This is the reason that the Torah reminds us "not to harden our hearts, nor shut our hands" (15:7) in the face of someone who is in need.  Yes, the task is overwhelming.  Unfortunately, it has always been and sadly will continue to be, but as we are reminded in the ethical axioms of the Talmud:  we are not required to complete the work, but neither are we permitted to refrain from our obligations.

The Torah paints for us a stark reality:  "the needy shall never cease (to exist)" which is why we are called upon "to open your hand to the poor and needy" (15:11).   The choice is ours:  the blessings or the misfortunes. Will we open our hands or harden our hearts?

Shabbat Shalom,