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Reeh Discussion

At Shabbat Services we discussed the mitzvah of tzedakah contained in this week's Torah portion.  Many questions were raised.  How do you determine a person's need?  Is it simply a matter of what s/he says s/he needs?  What if s/he refuses the offer of food or clothing and insists only on money?  Despite these praticial difficulties, Judaism counsels that it is our responsibility to support the needy.  Tzedakah is a fundamental commandment.  While it is our social responsibility to give tzedakah to those less fortunate than ourselves Judaism does not believe in a socialist ethic.  We must care for others, but we are not to impoverish ourselves in these efforts.  Most importantly, we discovered in Maimonides' ladder of tzedakah, that tzedakah is first and foremost about the recipient.  The giver's feelings are secondary.  The essence of tzedakah is about its root, tzedek--justice.  It is not about the charitable spirit but instead about re-balancing injustices and pursuing the path of justice.  We give to others because we must help others.