Obligations To The Poor Essay

2637 words - 11 pages

Rambam’s “Obligations to the Poor” from the Mishneh Torah help us understand how we should interact with the people who are less fortunate than us. As Professor Isador Twersky has said, “Maimonides’ [treatment of tzedakah] illustrates the need for sensitivity, tact, and graciousness in the act of charity. The formal, objective act of giving charity is deficient and defective if it is not characterized by kindness and sympathy.” This directly relates to the chapter in the Mishnah that we have been studying in Rabbinic Literature.
The quote said by Professor Twersky is highlighting not only the physical aspects of giving tzedakah, but also more the idea that we emotionally need to feel a ...view middle of the document...

This is violating the laws of giving tzedakah because one must go in depth with how they give, and not just throw money at the poor person and hope that they will find their way. One should not harden their heart, but instead be friendly and feel like they want to help the person that they are giving to. Another example of this is if one sees a poor person walking down the street and they purposefully turn their head so that they do not see them and therefore they do not have to give tzedakah. The enduring understanding here is if someone sees a poor person, it is not enough to just give them money because that is not fulfilling the obligation to help them with what they really may need. One must figure out what the person really needs. This relates to Professor Twersky’s quote because it addresses the issue of having compassion behind the giving of tzedakah. If one does not show kindness towards the poor person (not putting forth care towards what they actually need), then it is as if the mitzvah is void, and we have not actually helped the person in need. In halachah gimel (ג), we see explicit examples of what we are supposed to give a poor person depending on what they are lacking. Rambam gives us examples; if they are naked, we are supposed to give them clothes, if they are lacking household appliances, get them the necessary ones that they need. Also, if he doesn’t have a wife, get him married. If the poor person previous rode horses and had a servant run before them, then that is what one must get for them. We are trying to make them feel the least embarrassed, most comfortable and get them back on their feet. One is obligated to fill in what they are lacking, even if it doesn’t seem necessary for the poor person to have. This relates to Professor Twersky’s idea of tzedakah because he is stating that we must have sensitivity while giving tzedakah. Here, the person giving is illustrating sensitivity when we supply the poor person with the lavishes that they had in their previous life (ex. The horse and servant, fancy clothes, a significant other.) We are filling in what they lack and we need to be generous with our charity, showing kindness and sympathy towards the less fortunate.
In halachah dalet (ד), we see an example of a particular circumstance. Rambam discusses an orphan who comes to your door wanting a woman to marry. He says that we must rent them a house/room and get him all the necessary household appliances that he will need. Then, we must find him a woman to marry. Here, a wealthy person is obligated to make sure that the orphan has a happy life. If they are lacking a spouse, we must find them a spouse. A spouse can bring in extra income for the family, but better yet, stability in one’s life. Having someone who you can always count on is very important for not only an orphan, but for everyone. This relates to Professor Twersky’s ideas on helping the poor because he says that we must illustrate tact when giving charity....

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