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35. Gifts to the Poor - Matnos Aniyim

a) Gifts from Crops

One who harvests a field or tree should not take everything, but should leave a little (at least 1/60) at the end for the poor, as it says "You shall not finish the end of your field when you reap [and you shall not gather up the remains of your reaping]; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger".1 One who harvests a field should not pick up fallen stalks but should leave them for the poor, as it says "[You shall not finish reaping the end of your field] and you shall not gather up the remains of your reaping... you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger".2 Similarly, one who harvests a vineyard should not take sparse clusters or pick up fallen fruit but should leave them for the poor, as it says "You shall not strip your vineyard nor gather up the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger"1; [and it says "When you harvest your vineyard you shall not strip it behind you; it shall be for the stranger, the orphan and the widow"].3 One who harvests and forgets a small amount should not go back for it but should leave it for the poor, as it says "And if you forget a sheaf in the field you shall not go back to take it; it shall be for the stranger, the orphan and the widow... when you gather your olives you shall not remove everything after you; it shall be for the stranger, the orphan and the widow".4 If the poor are no longer looking for it anyone may take it.a

During the third and sixth years of the sabbatical cycle the second tithe is given to the poor, as it says "At the end of three years you shall take out all the tithe of your crop of that year and put it at your gate; and the Levite shall come... and the stranger and the orphan and widow... and shall eat"5; and it says "When you have finished giving all the tithe of your crop in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give [it] to the Levite, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow and they shall eat".6,b

b) Charity

We are commanded to give charity to the poor in accordance with our means and their needs, as it says "[If there is among you a poor man...] you shall open your hand to him and shall lend him enough for his needs that he lacks"7; and it says "[And if your brother becomes poor...] you shall support him, stranger or settler, and he shall live with you... and your brother shall live with you"8; and it says "You sha1l open your hand to your poor brother and to the poor man in your land".9 It is forbidden to ignore the poor when they ask for aid, as it says "You shall not harden your heart and you shall not shut your hand from your poor brother".7 Redemption of captives is the highest form of charity.c A promise to charity is like a vow. Every city must appoint men to collect and distribute charity.d

One should be especially careful to fulfill the commandment of giving charity, more than any other commandment. The Holy One, blessed be He, listens closely to the cries of the poor, as it says "And when he cries out to Me I will hear, for I am merciful".10 Charity is characteristic of the descendants of Abraham, as it says "For I know... that he will command his children... to do charity [and justice]".11 Israel will not be redeemed except through charity, as it says "Zion will be redeemed through justice; and those who return to it, through charity".

Sources:

1. Lev. 23:22 a. 1:1-2,4,5-6,10,15
2. Lev. 19:9-10 b. 6:4
3. Deut. 24:21 c. 7:1-2,13; 8:10
4. Deut. 24:19-20 d. 8:1; 9:1
5. Deut. 14:28-29 e. 10:1,3
6. Deut. 26:12
7. Deut. 15:7-8
8. Lev. 25:35-36
9. Deut. 15:11
10. Ex. 22:26
11. Gen. 18:19
12. Isaiah 1:27



 


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