Re’eh 5780

By: James Rosenberg

In Parashat Re‘eh:

We learn that we have an obligation to care for others.

It is haShem’s Commandment to us!

With this obligation to God, Moses continues his second speech to the Israelites preparing them for entering the Promised Land. He speaks about values and behaviors, which lead to blessings; OR, to curses. So beware!!! Would you like to receive blessings or curses? It is your choice through your actions. Our Torah portion teaches us that blessings do not arrive just because we ask God for help! HE bestows blessing if our actions exhibit certain values and behaviors. The Israelites will receive their blessings should they live according to the Commandments of haShem, as they enter the new land.

Through Re’eh, we learn that if we live a life of ethics, values, and morals – they will bring blessings to us from God.

“Moreover, if there is a needy person among us, a disadvantaged individual in any of the land that haShem has given to us, G-d says to not harden your heart and shut your hand against this individual. Rather, you must open your hand and give that person help, for whatever he needs.

Give to him readily and have no regrets when you do so – for in return, haShem will bless you in all your efforts and in all your undertakings.”

“There will always be people in need in your land, which is why God commands you to “open your hand to share that which your brethren needs.”

The Mishnah and the Talmud elaborate on this notion of sharing, introducing us to the value of tzedakah: charitable giving or philanthropy. Maimonides followed up with his “Eight Degrees of Charity”.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks takes the value of tzedakah even further. According to Rabbi Sacks, and, please listen-very carefully), “To know God is to act with justice and compassion, to recognize his image in other people, and to hear

the silent cry of those in need.”

One can imagine a society that fastidiously observes the rule of law, and yet contains so much inequality that wealth is concentrated into the hands of the few, and many are left without the most basic requirements for a dignified existence. There may be high unemployment and widespread poverty. Some may live in palaces while others go homeless. HaShem did not contemplate this kind of environment, or these living standards.

There must be justice not only in how the law is applied, but also with respect to how the wealth of G-d’s blessing are distributed.

This is tzedakah! It is a part of our society, implemented not by power – but by moral responsibility and the network of obligations created by the

covenants at Sinai.

Talking about tzedakah in the Parashat today, I would be negligent if I did not share some of what I know about Poverty in Dallas. I have worked with thousands of disadvantaged and at-risk young people that are growing up here – in a cycle-of-poverty – that passes from one generation to the next, L’dor V’dor.

From the DISD Data Portal – 130,437 students are growing up and classified as “Economically Disadvantaged”. Those are nice words for growing up in Poverty.

The Dallas Morning News reports that almost 281,000 people live in POVERTY in Dallas today.

The former reading czar for Dallas Independent School District, Robert B. Cooter, says that the School District is failing to teach most kids to hit the mark in reading. Only 15% (please, listen carefully), only 15% of all DISD students tested proficient in reading by the fourth grade. Moreover, 55% scored in the lowest category – – – below basic.

We all know that literacy is the gateway to opportunity in America!

I researched and discerned the above economic statistics prior to the Pandemic and the economic crisis it created for our Country this year. I have no idea about the current economic landscape for the young people to whom our nonprofit is of service, and the 281,000 people living in poverty. WE live in harsh economic times. Jobs have disappeared, evictions and foreclosures are at an all-time high, and people are having trouble feeding their families. There are hundreds of thousands of people in Dallas not coping well with today’s economic crisis.

WE have to empower the young people with the necessary tools to remove themselves from the CycleofPoverty into which they were born. IT has to start somewhere…

This is tzedakah in action. This is God’s Commandment! Let’s help the adults of tomorrow – climb out of their neighborhoods of poverty today, and give them a chance to explore, learn about, and enjoy the real world as WE know it!

Maimonides shared…

The highest degree of tzedakah, exceeded by none, is when YOU assist a poor person, strengthening him in such a manner that his falling into neediness again – will never happen!

I wish each of you a safe and spiritual Shabbat Shalom!