TO HELP OR NOT TO HELP



Helping Examples from the texts

  • "If you see your enemy trying to get his donkey onto its feet beneath a heavy load, you must not go on by, but must help him." (Exodus 23:5)
  • "...love your neighbor as yourself..." (Leviticus 19:18)
  • "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger." (Leviticus 19:9-10)
  • "When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him.  The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:33-34)​
  • "When your brother Israelite is reduced to poverty and cannot support himself in the community, you shall uphold him as you would a resident stranger." (Leviticus 25:35)
  • "Those Jews who do not go [to rebuild the Temple of Jehovah, who is the God of Israel and of Jerusalem] should contribute toward the expenses of those who do, and also supply them with clothing, transportation, supplies for the journey, and a freewill offering for the Temple." (Ezra 3-4)
  • "I helped the poor in their need, and the fatherless who had no one to help them.  I helped those who were ready to perish and they blessed me.  And I caused the widows' hearts to sing for joy.  All I did was just and honest, for righteousness was my clothing!  I served as eyes for the blind and feet for the lame.  I was as a father to the poor, and saw to it that even strangers received a fair trial.  I knocked out the fangs of the godless oppressors and made them drop their victims.  I thought, Surely I shall die quietly in my nest after a long, good life." (Job 29: 12-18)
  • "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)
  • "He who saves a single life it is as if he saved an entire world." Mishna, Sanhedrin 4:5

Maimonides' Laws of Charity  (hierarchy of giving)

  • Give reluctantly or with regret
  • Give less than should but give graciously
  • Give what should but only after being asked
  • Give before being asked
  • Give without knowing to whom you are giving (although the recipient may know the donor)
  • Give without making the donor's identity known
  • Give without knowing the recipient and the recipient not knowing the donor
  • Help someone become self-supporting by giving a gift, loan, or support in finding a job

Judaism

Judaism is one of the major monotheistic world religions.  Some Jews, however, think of Judaism not as a religion but as their cultural or national identity regardless of where they were born or currently dwell. 

Sources of written inspiration compiled over years from varied cultural settings include--

  • Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) which consists of the Torah, Prophets, and The Writings.  
  • Talmud which contains the history, law, folklore, and commentary
  • Midrashim which is the supplement to the Talmud with legend, exegesis, and homily. 

The Torah includes 613 commandments (mitzvahs) that provide a force for moral unity between man and God and between individuals and their community.  Among the commands are the showing of respect for the life, dignity, and rights of all individuals as well as to support good in the Jewish community and in the world.  

These sources of inspiration provide the foundation for beliefs such as:

  • God as the Creator, who is incomparable, invisible, and the only one to whom we should pray.
  • God as all knowing of  the deeds and thoughts of human beings
  • God as the giver of rewards and punishments for commandments kept or violated
  • The coming of a Messiah who will bring order, justice, and universal peace
  • The resurrection of the dead


Divisions in Judaism include Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionists, Reformers, and/or Renewalists.  In the past it has included the Sadducees, Pharisees, Karaites, and Kabbalists.

The Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai provide instruction in how to relate to God and how to behave towards one another.  The relationship with God requires avoiding idolatry, treating God's name with respect, and keeping the Sabbath day holy.  The commands related to the relationship between individuals are to honor your father and mother and to not kill, steal, lie, commit adultery, bear false witness, or covet what is your neighbors (home, wife, or wealth).  

Mitzvah of Tzedakah: Traditionally Jews were commanded to withhold a portion of one's income for the advancement of righteousness and justice.  Today supporting the good in the world financially is the essence of the Mitzvah of Tzedakah.   Beginning with support for one's own synagogue, contributions stretch around the world and in many philanthropic ways.

Mitzvah of Gemilut Chesed: This mitzvah directs Jews to perform acts of kindness for others (especially in the Jewish community).  Such acts include visiting the sick (bikur cholim), behaving graciously and hospitably (hachnasat orchim), and comforting the mourner (nichum avelim). 

Mitzvah of Tikkun Olam: This area of help giving relates to alleviating hunger, homelessness, disease, ignorance, abuse, and political oppression among all people.  It also encompasses preserving the health of the global ecosystem upon which life depends.  Ethically and socially responsible action are the expression of this kind of help giving.