Monday, January 22, 2007


Takers and Givers

by Rabbi Gustavo Surazski

This week’s portion of the Torah talks about the laws of the Passover sacrifice, the lamb that was butchered and eaten at the holiday feast. It is written in the Book of Shemot 12, 4:

"But if the household is too small for a lamb or kid, then he and his neighbor who is near his house shall take according to the number of people”.

This is very interesting. The Torah requests that a family with leftover meat MUST knock at his neighbor’s door and offer it to him. The Torah could have said that the poor man that didn’t have enough money to buy food for the holiday should knock at his neighbor’s door requesting food…

The Torah is the foundation of western cultures and most of the important Justice systems in the world. Even the fundaments of the human rights are found in the Torah…

If we look carefully into the torah, the word “right”, “rights” or “privileges” do not appear often. The Torah isn’t full of “rights” but full of “obligations”.

Obligations of children towards their parents, obligations of kings towards their people, obligations of the people towards the less fortunate, obligations towards strangers, orphans and widows, obligations towards G-D.

Why a beautiful word such as “Right” or “Privilege” doesn’t appear? If it is all the same…

If The Torah is after Social Justice, why not say for instance “I have the RIGHT to ask for and receive support from my fellow people”, instead of “It is my OBLIGATION to take care of and support the needy of my people?”. It is simple, If the Torah spoke of rights instead of obligations, it would “create” a TAKER mankind and not a GIVER one.

The Torah could have said that this Jew has the RIGHT to receive from his rich neighbor his remains from the Passover sacrifice. But the Torah says it is our OBLIGATION to give what is left over… And this is a totally different story.

We can learn this lesson from Abraham Avinu.. Our Sages tell us that Abraham sat at the heat of the day at the opening of his tent, waiting to see who passes by in order to invite them in (Baba Metzia 86b).

Why should he feel sorry? Why should he have to “create” needy and poor where none exist…

Rabbi Yerachmiel Barylka says something nice:

We can prove from Abraham’s behavior that the purpose of this Mitzvah is not only for the benefit of the RECEIVER but also and maybe more so for the GIVER…

The giver benefits more than the receiver as the mitzvah of Tzedakah clean, purifies and improves the spiritual strength of the GIVER.

This was Abraham’s sorrow. Not only was he good hearted towards the needy. But was sad because he didn’t have enough opportunities to improve the feeling in his soul.

We clearly see to which camp Abraham belongs. The same camp the Torah expects us all to belong to: The Camp of the GIVERS.

There is an old tale of a man who was drowning at sea. The lifeguard swam his fastest and reached him within minutes and yelled out “Give me your hand”. The man didn’t respond to the lifeguard’s call and kept yelling “Help, help!!”. Once again the lifeguard called out “Give me your hand, give me your hand”. Once again there was no response and the man finally drowned.

The lifeguard swam back to shore where he met the man’s wife who while crying asked: “Why didn’t you save him?”. “Madam”, he said, “I beg your forgivness, but I yelled out to him to: Give me your hand, Give me your hand, but he didn’t respond”.

“What a shame you didn’t talk to me first”, she said. “You should have said “take my hand and not give me yours as my husband never gave anyone any thing in his
There are many “camps” in the Israeli society either Religious or Secular, Ashkenazis or Sephardies, Left wing or right Settlers, Veterans or Olim Chadashim. But the differences between these groups are irrelevant when we are talking about the future of the state of Israel.
There are only two camps we should consider. The GIVERS and the TAKERS. The Camp of students of Abraham our father, and the camp of people who will not give even to save themselves from drowning.

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