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Behar-Teach him to fish…

If your brother becomes poor and his means falter in your proximity (unable to support himself among you), you shall strengthen him (Leviticus 25:35)

 

The Torah states in Parshat Behar (Leviticus 25:35), “If your brother becomes poor and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him.”  

This teaches us that we are obligated to help a fellow Jew financially. By using the word the word mata –to  “falter,”  (u’matah yado, “and his means falter”) to be unsteady – to totter, to falter, to be about to fall) the Torah emphasizes that it is more important to support a Jew financially as he stumbles rather than when he falls to his feet and is reduced to begging for charity.

 

The phrase u’mata yado describes his “hand” as becoming shaky; steadying his hand by a small amount of support will keep him standing on his feet.  So the Torah maintains that a person should be supported before u’mata raglo  – he falls to his feet

 

Do not wait until your fellow Jew falls under the pressure of financial constraints. Help him before he reaches the poverty level. It is easier to give a helping hand and prevent someone from stumbling than to lift up a person who has fallen. Similarly, it is more effective to assist a person while he is suffering from financial instability than to do so when that same person has lost his financial footing completely.

 

This endeavor must be made imach (with you). In offering and lending assistance, do not reduce him to a condition of sloth and loss of self-respect: give him the opportunity of remaining with you. The Torah also teaches us to provide this assistance in a humane and thoughtful way. In Tehillim (41:1) we are taught, “How blessed is the lot of one who wisely helps the poor.”

 

Strengthen him, give him the ability to stand on his own to feet: ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life’ (Ancient Proverb).

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