4-5770 Mitzvah 62
December 13, 2009
Negative Mitzvah 62 – This is a negative commandment: Do not harden your heart and do not shut your hand toward a poor Jew.
Hafetz Hayim – As Scripture says: “you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your needy brother.” (Deut. 15:7). [http://toratemetlessons.blogspot.com/2006/12/09-5767-mitzvah-38.html]. It is in force everywhere, at every time for both men and women.
In the positive Mitzvah, the Hafetz Hayim writes at length about the many different ways the Torah tells us that we need to be responsible for the poor in our community. He tell us there (you can look it up in the Archives on Dec. 25, 2006) all the many ways we can fulfill this positive commandment. But as we say in the last lesson, there is also a negative side to this law.
There are many reasons that we might fail in our obligation to the poor. We might think that the person is not really poor; we think he is guilty of trying to make his money by scamming those of us who take our Tzedakah seriously. Perhaps we have already given many times in recent days. Maybe we had a bad month and we are worried about our family income. Maybe we are not feeling very generous this week. As far as this commandment is concerned, there is no excuse for closing our hand to those who are in need. It is not just a positive commandment; there is also a negative commandment that tells us that we have sinned if we close our hand to the poor.
The Mitzvah only mentions poor Jews and we do have an obligation to Jews who are in need before those who are not Jewish. We can fulfill this part of the Mitzvah through our contributions to the Jewish Federation. Still, we should support all the poor in our community if, for no other reason, for the sake of peace. We can fulfill this part of the Mitzvah through our contributions to the United Way. We need to support all those institutions who work every day to offer food, clothing and shelter to the poor in our country and around the world. We may not be able to end poverty by ourselves, but every person we can help, deserves our Tzedakah.