Brotherhood and Giving: A Torah Thought for Parashat Re’eh
By Michael Fuah
Of a foreigner you may exact it; but whatsoever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release.” (From this week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, Deuteronomy 15:3)
The line between ‘your brother’ and the ‘foreigner’ is not drawn out of hate or a desire to insult the foreigner, G-d forbid. It is an essential line drawn to build a national framework. A person who grows up in a healthy family framework that is part of a community, united with a nation that has a destiny and significance can give up his property – by choice – for the good of the other. This is the secret of the Shmittah of money once in seven years and the re-division of personal gain once every fifty years, in the Jubilee. On one hand, the Torah sanctifies personal property, which is the foundation of liberty. On the other hand, the Torah demands societal norms of concern for the weak – by choice and not by coercion. This unique way of life is neither capitalistic nor socialistic, nor is it a compromise between the two. It is a Jewish way of life, “for you are a holy nation to Hashem, your G-d, and Hashem has chosen you to be his treasured nation from among all the nations on the face of the earth.”
The ability to willingly and happily give up possessions for the welfare of someone less better off is acquired when there is a common destiny and when there is something to live for beyond material pleasure. “And you shall rejoice on your holidays, you and your son and your daughter and your servant and your maidservant and the Levite and the convert and the orphan and the widow who are within your gates.” The nation rejoices when it is united, at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the place that G-d has chosen.