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Re'eh. Open Hearts - Open Hands

"If there is a needy person among you, one of your brothers 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 brother. Rather, you must open your hand wide (pato’ach tiftach) and lend him sufficient for whatever he lacks." (Deut. 15:7-9)

This is the main source for the law of Tzedaka in the Torah. Tzedaka is a paradoxical term. It indicates “Tzedek-Justice” but also a sense of charity or kindness. Rabbis Sacks writes:

Tzedaka cannot be translated because it joins together two concepts that in other languages are opposites, namely charity and justice. Suppose, for example, that I give someone £100. Either he is entitled to it, or he is not. If he is, then my act is a form of justice. If he is not, it is an act of charity. Tzedaka is therefore an unusual term, because it means both. (Covenant and Conversation, 5767)

In Judaism it seems, we can be commanded to be genuinely caring! The opening text, above, from our Parsha, highlights many behavioural and emotional instructions which should inform our thoughts and emotions in the sphere of Tzedaka, social welfare. Let us study the verses.

What stands out to you in these verses?

I will focus upon several phrases that stand out for me:

  • “Open hands” and “closed hands”. What is our default position - Hand open or closed? What does the Torah think in the way that it phrases the law?

  • “Do not harden your heart and shut your hand”. What pre