Sunday, July 19, 2009

Foundations of Charity II

As a follow-up to this post (link), R. Menachem Kasdan was kind enough to contact me and clarify some items from my post.

First, while he did not learn at Yeshiva Har Etzion, he studied under R. Aharon Lichtenstein at Yeshiva University (whom he calls his teacher at some point in the book), has a close personal relationship with R. Binyamin Tabory from back when R. Kasdan was in Bnei Akiva, and has studied for many years with a Gush resident in the yeshiva itself.

More to the point, here are his words regarding the substantive discussion in the prior post:

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More to the point, here are his words regarding the substantive discussion in the prior post:

The reason someone who does not have money for his basic needs cannot forgive the obligation of charity towards him is - as I mention in that essay, and as is explained more fully on p.44 sub yesod hachiluk - that the Torah does not allow someone who is so poor to forgo accepting charity. The pauper's waiving of his rights to receive charity is not permissible and therefore it is not legally valid; his mechila is not chal, and therefore the rich man's obligation to give him charity is as valid and obligatory as ever. But since the poor man won't accept charity, the rich man is obligated to "deceive" him into being helped. This is the halakha of 'ha'arama".

Incidentally, this idea is based on the notion - which I've never seen anyone spell out before, but which in my opinion is in the Rambam's ruling brought in the beginning of chapter 2 (p. 31 sub ועיין‎) - that Halakha recognizes a distinction between absolute poverty and poverty relative to a specific society.

Finally, the core ideas which underlie the mitzvah are chessed to the poor man – emotionally as well as physically – and the rich man's acknowledgement that the money he gives is really God's gift which he must share with his less fortunate brother, thus making tzedaka a mitzvah which contains and stresses elements of bain adam l'chaveiro, bein adam l'atzmo (his recognition and acceptance that it's not his
money that he gives and it is justified that he give it), and bain adam lamakom (since in tzadaka, giving to the poor man is, halakhically also giving back to Hashem). See p. 237, first par, and pp. 208-209.

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