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Home -- Content: Series 7 (Laws) -- Translation: English -- Book: 1 (Tora) -- Part: 1 (Positive) -- Command: 195 -- Text
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The Sharia of Moses in the TORA
Part 1 - The 248 Positive Commandments of the Tora

195 - CHARITY


Deuteronomy 15:11 -- “For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’”
Leviticus 25:35-36 -- 35 “If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. 36 Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you.”

“We are under obligation to be more heedful in the fulfillment of the commandment to distribute charity than in that of any other positive commandment, since charity is the distinguishing mark of righteousness in the seed of Abraham, our father, as it is said, For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice (Genesis 18:19). The position of Israel will not become established, nor will the true faith prove enduring, save through charity, as it is said, In righteousness you shall be established (Isaiah 54:14). Further, Israel will not be redeemed save only through charity, as it is said, Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and her penitents with righteousness. (Isaiah 1:27)”*

* Mishneh Torah, Zeraim, Hilchoth Matnoth Aniim, X, 1

The best charity is that done in secret*; it is related in the Mishnah that in the Temple there was a chamber called the “Chamber of the Silent”, where the rich placed their alms and the poor received them, in ignorance of each other’s identity.**

* B.B. 9b
** Shek. V, 6

“The obligation to effect the ransom of captives is prior to that of supporting and clothing the poor. Indeed, no commandment, be it ever so important, can compare with that relating to the ransom of captives, since the captive is in the category both of them that suffer hunger, thirst, and nakedness, and of them that are ever in mortal danger. Hence one who is willfully slack in assisting in the ransom of a captive becomes liable forthwith for the transgression of the Scriptural commandments, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother (Deuteronomy 15:7); nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor (Leviticus 19:16); and he shall not rule with rigor over him in your sight (Leviticus 25:53), as well as for his failure to fulfill the Scriptural commandments, but you shall open your hand wide to him (Deuteronomy 15:8); that your brother may live with you (Leviticus 25:36); but you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18); and Deliver those who are drawn toward death (Proverbs 24:11) – besides many other similar commandments. Truly, no commandment, be it ever so important, can compare with that relating to the ransom of captives.”*

* Mishneh Torah, Zeraim, Hilchoth Matnoth Aniim VIII, 10

Over and above the obligation devolving upon the individual Israelite to give charity, the community as a whole is enjoined by Jewish law to provide for its poor. Maimonides exclaims in passing: “Never have we either seen or heard of a community in Israel that should be without its Public Charity Fund.”*

* ibid., IX, 3

Charity, in the opinion of the sages, should also be of such a nature as to elevate the spirit of the recipient, besides supplying his mere bodily necessities.*

* ibid., X, 4-5

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