Re’eh: Got Chesed?


rabbi-nosson-greenbergIn this week’s parsha Hashem gives us a bracha, “Efeski lo yih’ye becha evyon” – “However there will be no destitute among you” (Devarim, 15:4). Rashi, quoting a Sifri, explains that this blessing will only see fruition at a time whenYidden completely embrace the will of Hashem. Only in such an atmosphere will there be no destitute amongst us. And regarding the word “becha” of thispassuk the Sifri tells us that only the BnaiYisroelwill have this blessing of being evyon-free, but other nations will still experience poverty. One has to question the relevance of us knowing this last piece of information. At first glance the bracha being promised to us is that life will be good for Yidden. It is obvious, though, that everyone else who is not fulfilling the will of Hashem will stay the same and unfortunately shall still have their fair share of evyonim. Why does it seem from Chazal that this fact of life regarding others is relevant to ourbracha? The obvious answer of course is that if the whole world had no evyonim then it would be near impossible for us to see our successes as a direct result of us following Hashem. For we would look around and see everyone else with the same blessing. It is only the vivid contrast of our successes vis a vis the rest of the world’s struggles that enables us to realize that we are being rewarded. But perhaps we can offer another explanation.

Rav Shmuel Birnbaum zt”l was once out walking and was approached by a non-jewish indigent begging for a quarter for a bus-ride, which Rav Birnbaum promptly gave him. When a talmid inquired as to the permissibility of such a donation and why it was not a violation of “Lo saichanem”, Rav Birnbaum replied that having used that quarter to hone his middos and to overcome man’s natural tendency to hold on to one’s money, it was definitely considered getting something back on the deal and was not to be considered a “freebie” at all. Yidden are commanded to copy the character traits of Hashem. This means (among other things) to be compassionate, generous and giving. To be a true and well-rounded ba’alchesed is to embrace sharing with others all ones hard-earned resources. Living in a society where no other Yid is poor is a wonderful bracha,but it is tremendously frustrating for theba’alaychesedamong us. He wakes up in the morning yearning to help others but there are no takers. No one is knocking on his door for handouts, there are no tzedakah letters in the mail, and there are no soup kitchens within which to help out.  For such a person thisevyon-free world of bracha is missing something; a huge area of potential character growth that is near impossible to attain. So Hashem reminds him at the announcement of this blessing that even though among the Yidden there will be bracha, there will still be many people in the world to help, allowing him to grow in his middos and follow in Hashem’s footsteps.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Nosson Greenberg is rov of Khal Machzikei Torah of Far Rockaway, N.Y., and maggid shiur at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway.

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