Life keeps us all quite busy; working, raising children, dining with friends, attending weddings, attending to our parents, the list goes on. There are relatives and friends, with whom we maintain a continued relationship, one, which is “natural” and affords us great pleasure, and one, which is needed. Friendships are at the foundation of a sane life. By nature, we are social beings; friendships are necessary.
With this introductory “entitlement” speech about how much we deserve to preserve our friendship and social intercourse, we must look to where we may insure such needed relationships for others: we must demonstrate equal concern with those who are less fortunate. I refer to the elderly, the sick, the lonely, those who isolate themselves, singles, foster children, and many times, those right in our own neighborhoods, who we overlook because they dress poorly, there are poor, or because they act indifferent to our relationship with them.
God states He maintains a special relationship with the convert, the widow and the orphan. We are also warned not to oppress them, as God will respond, “making our wives and children the widows and orphans”. In other words, He will kill those who oppress these defenseless individuals.
Why do people target the defenseless? Precisely! They are defenseless. The vicious ones of the Jews are cowards, attacking those with whom they experience no opposition – they have no male figures, no husbands or fathers to defend them. It is the insecure Jews who express their aggression towards widows and orphans, offering the oppressor the feeling of control over other people. This is an innate desire, and has its place, for proper governors and leaders, but not for abusers. And sometimes abuse is not in acute cases, but is subtler: as we pass a poor person on the avenue asking us for money. I see it all too often. These ‘religious’ Jews simply pass by, looking askance at those who humble themselves to ask for a dollar. I am amazed. But the source of the abusers of orphans and widows is the same as the reason why people don’t give to the poor: they are arrogant, and feel bothered. They express aggression by not giving, and they violate God’s Torah. Perhaps they wish not to identity, to be seen, associating with such a disheveled, unclean person in need. It is an unconscious sense that they too could be this way. Veering away – in their warped minds – they attempt to self-reinforce that they do not partake of these lowly qualities. However, we must give to anyone who asks. It need not be much, but it must be something. Furthermore, the Torah states that we must commiserate too, not simply pull out a dollar. Giving money to the poor has a higher objective: reinstating some sense of dignity. This dignity is essential for a person to function in a state of equilibrium, which in turn enables one to follow the Torah happily, and properly.
I simply wish to awaken you all to the need of the oppressed and unfortunate among us. Many of you are already contributing by participating to Tomchei Shabbas, Bikkur Cholim, and other activities essential to our Jewish communities. I give you my warmest praises, and also encourage you to explore the less popular task of individually seeking out those overlooked, and attending to their needs, be they social or monetary. We must insure the care and expressed concern for those who won’t ask for it; who cannot ask for it; who are too embarrassed to ask for it.
Genesis, 18:19: “For I know Abraham, that he will command his children and his household after him and they will keep the way of God to do charity and justice.”