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25th Elul :When we help the poor we help ourselves

When we help the poor, we help ourselves

לי = לאביונים

One day, a Rabbi announced an event under the infamous name "Shabbat for the rich." This immediately caused a very negative reaction - so negative that even on the Internet, which remembers everything, it is almost impossible to find traces of this event. Many, including me, immediately remembered the legendary formula from the novel "Generation P" by the modern Russian writer Pelevin: "Reputable Lord for reputable lords". In original it sounds as follows: “Solidny Gospod’ dlya solidnikh gospod”. Of course, the desire to surround oneself with "rich and successful" people is understandable. But what about those who do not belong to this category? Is it possible to separate the rich from the poor in the synagogue with the "Berlin Wall"?

This year, Rosh Chodesh Elul fell on Shabbat, on which we read Ree Torah portion. That week's parasha contained three statements about poverty that, at first glance, contradict each other. First, as one of the blessings, it says: "there will be no poor among you" (Dvarim 15:4). The Torah further states: "But if, however, you have a poor..." (Dvarim 15:7). And then comes the chiselled wording, which is well reflected in the King James translation: "For the poor shall never cease out of the land" (Dvarim 15:11).

At first it says that "there will be no poor", then we understand that they "might be there", and finally we understand that the category of "poor" will never disappear. If we read these statements in reverse order, we see a clear call to action: we must do everything that depends on us so that poverty, as the most humiliating condition for a person, disappears altogether from the face of the earth. Will there be poor people on earth? Depends on us!

The Torah is not about festivals “only for the rich”, it offers a simple mechanism to overcome inequality: a special tithe that we had to spend ... on ourselves! This is the money we were supposed to use to buy food for the Mishkan /Temple celebrations. Inevitably, with a large crowd of people in one place, new acquaintances and social connections arise. We begin to share food with those who are close to us, including the poor. If we add to this the cancellation of debts in the seventh year, then we will see the possibility of creating a society in which there will be no poverty. By helping the poor, we help ourselves!

לי = לאביונים

Shanah tovah!

Rabbi Leonid Bimbat, LBC 2007, Moscow Center for Progressive Judaism (aka Moscow Reform Synagogue)


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