According to Rashi, Moshe Rabbeinu begins our Parsha R’ei by informing the B’nei Yisrael about the blessing and the curse to be pronounced to them upon their entry to Eretz Yisrael from Mount Gerizim and Mount Eval.
Moshe Rabbeinu continues his mussar saying:
“Behold, I set before you … a blessing and a curse; the blessing if you heed the commandments of Hashem, and the curse, if you will not observe his commandments.(Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posukim 26-27)
Toward the end of the parsha, we are informed:
“If there be among you a destitute person of one of your brothers within your cities in your land which Hashem … gives you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 15, posuk 7)
This author views “V’ahavtah, L’rei’echa Kamocha”, that which Hillel told the Ger “on one foot” as summing up the entire Torah; wanting for your brother what you would want for yourself, and not wanting for your brother what you would not want for yourself, as the link which binds these two these two p’sukim in our Parsha.
One of the most illustrative stories regarding this link is one told about the consequences of lacking Chesed:
There was once a man who enjoyed all of the good things in life; successful business, devoted wife, a beautiful, spacious home. He was content to continue this good life indefinitely.
One day, as he sat down to a sumptuous meal, there was a knock at the door. A beggar was seeking a few spare morsels of food to suffice his hunger. The man responded scornfully, as he slammed the door; “Why don’t you go out and earn a living instead of depending upon others to support you”.
Not long afterwards, the man noticed that his business began to decline. He soon had to cut back on his lifestyle by pawning off many of his valuable clothing and belongings. The business downturn continued unabated. He gave up all of his furniture and soon, his house as well. His wife volunteered to find work to pay for food but the man refused. Feeling ashamed at not being able to support his wife, he divorced her.
Several months passed and the wife found a new suitor. He was a newly wealthy man and they married and established a household.
Once again, one night as the couple were preparing for dinner, there was a knock at the door. A beggar appeared asking for food. The new husband was much more Chessed oriented than the previous one. He invited the beggar in and provided him with enough food and money for weeks. The beggar, eyes downcast, accepted the Chessed gratefully.
After the beggar departed, the husband noticed a strange look on his wife’s face and asked what was wrong. She explained, “I knew that beggar. He was my first husband. He looked so thin and pale that I hardly recognized him. How sad to see a man sink so low.”
The husband thought for a moment and said, “If that was your first husband, then I just realized something. Do you remember that a beggar once came to your previous home asking for bread and was turned away? Somehow, good fortune seemed to come to me after that and I became wealthy.” We are told, “he who closes his ears to the cry of the poor will himself cry out and not be heard.” (Mishley 21:13) (L’lMode U’Lamid, pages 170-171.)
It is against the background of the two posukim cited above and the consequences of lacking chessed that one could speak of the importance of a myriad of chassadim. But, as recalled by this author so often in the past, there are two causes which beg, which cry out for the kindness, the chessed of B’nai Yisrael.
For 4 years, since the expulsion of the former Gush Katif residents in 2005, Successive regimes of currupt, immoral Israeli governance, across the board on both sides of the Knesset isle, have tried to gloss over and hide their outrageous and eggregious contempt for the governed, particularly the systemic brainwashing and orientation of the governed masses which libels, slanders, defames and accuses the Jews formerly of Gush Katif as exemplified by a Haaretz editorial two years ago;
Each has received some $500,000 in compensation. The main difficulty in absorbing them stems from the fact that they left behind an economic paradise, which was subsidized by the state, and most lack the professional skills needed for a free-market economy. In this, they are different from the Russian immigrants who were successfully absorbed in Israel.
The editorial further claimed two-fold reasons why the former Gush Katif residents “are unable to rebuild the businesses they left behind in Gush Katif, where they acquired their professional knowledge and experience;
Their businesses were not profitable even in Gush Katif. The second reason is they no longer enjoy cheap Palestinian labor, nearly free water, free land, subsidized electricity and tremendous tax benefits. The Gush Katif evacuees’ lobby in the Knesset is trying to acquire even more compensation, each time for something else. It is very likely that this lobby will succeed, considering settlers’ lobby victories of the past.
Israeli governance hides it’s arrogance and it’s continuing wrong-doing against 10,000 Jews by outrageously acting in complicity with the former Arab employees of former Gush Katif businesses by asserting that these businesses “wrongly dismissed” their Arab employees.
Such outright, blood-libelous, slanderous lies. Further, to this very day, there are still former Gush Katif residents who face repeated eviction threats from the temporary locations where the government placed them.
This all very much brings to mind the scornful cynicism of that wealthy man who blew out the beggar, and became a beggar himself. This very much brings to mind the scornful cynicism of that wealthy man who blew out the beggar, and became a beggar himself.
“… You shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother.”
Meanwhile, four years later, the Knesset-enacted law mandating restitution funds, which were torturously slow in materializing and which many slated recipients still have seen little if any of, are running out such that many or most former Gush Katif residents will have seen their meager funds absorbed by living expenses incurred over this period. Many will, therefore, be unable to build when and if the regime ever finally signs agreements with the former residents as to new contruction of their permanent homes.
There are two organizations which this author wholeheartedly endorses and where kind, caring, chessed-oriented Jews can directly help hundreds of families of formerly self-sufficient, now needy former Gush Katif residents. These organizations are the Friends of Gush Katif and Operation Dignity. You are strongly encouraged to click on these two sites and to give generously from the heart so that, with your help, B’Ezrat Hashem these industrious and formerly productive Jews can once again resume their lives free from Regime-sanctioned limbo.
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, kidnapped captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive and be returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem and that we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network.