Opening Day: Re’eh 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What factors impede your ability to give charity? What prevents you from giving more than you already do?

A passage in this week’s portion indicates that charity starts with a simple gesture:

The Pitch: “Rather, you must open your hand and lend him sufficient for whatever he needs.” – Deuteronomy 15:8

Swing #1: “In the Hebrew, the command to open our hands to the needy is constructed in the ‘doubling’ or emphatic form. Why twice? To teach that one should give twice: once before and once after being asked.” – Rabbi Mordecai HaCohen, Al HaTorah

Swing #2: “While the word kavod [honor] is not used here, the concept is nevertheless present. In order to give people ‘sufficient to meet the need,’ we must have some level of understanding of what they are going through. Understanding derives from taking people seriously, from giving weight to their experiences. Conversely, it is easier to close our hearts to others and disregard their need when we do not regard them as worthwhile, when we take their experiences too lightly.” – Rabbi Jen Clayman in The Mussar Torah Commentary: A Spiritual Path to Living an Ethical and Meaningful Life, Rabbi Barry H. Block, Ed.

Swing #3: “Even where an opening and a beginning already exist, charity opens more and more, widening the opening further. When a person wants to embark upon a particular path and devotion in worshiping God, he needs to make an opening in order to enter that path. … When we make an opening in some devotion and give charity, the charity opens and widens the opening more and more. This is because charity is the beginning of all beginnings, for it opens and widens all the entrances.” – Likutei Moharan

Late-Inning Questions: What factors do our commentators believe are essential when considering how to give charity? Do you agree that giving opens the door to other commandments? How can we be more open in our philanthropic endeavors?

On-Deck at TBT: The Abayudaya Jewish community in Uganda needs the support of Conservative Jews and broader global Jewry to thrive, and the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs has been at the forefront of assisting – including through a contribution from our own club. Recently, though, the situation for the Abayudaya has worsened. Please join your TBT Men’s Club and Buffalo Jewish Federation in supporting this urgent appeal.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of charity, I was heartened to learn that, as of five years ago, my Chicago Cubs were the second-most generous MLB franchise. I hope that’s still the case.

Shabbat Shalom!