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    It’s cold outside – Mishpatim

    beg charity poor homeless mendicant tzedakahThere is a verse about charity that begins, “If you lend money to My people, to those who are poor with you…” (Ex. 22:24).

    What do we learn from this verse? That everyone is equally one of God’s people and even if you have to provide someone with financial assistance, you must never humiliate them.

    Someone once said to me when I sought assistance for a poor man, “Let the poor man knock on my door and of course I will help him”.

    Whether he did actually help anyone who came to the door I don’t know, but his method is humiliating and inappropriate.

    Secondly, if someone needs help you have to see them as “with you”, i.e. able to feel their pain.

    It is said that the Chatam Sofer came to ask a rich man for a donation for someone. It was winter and the rich man came to the door without an overcoat. The rabbi stood on the doorstep and refused to enter the house until he had explained his request. The rich man began to shiver from the cold.

    The rabbi said, “I wanted you to feel how cold it was outside so that you would realise how cold the poor people are even within their houses because they can’t afford fuel for heating.”

    The person who gives has to feel for the poor. It recalls the Haggadah, “In every generation a person must see himself as if he personally had been a slave in Egypt”.

    Truly, in every generation the rich must see themselves as if they were personally poor and deprived.

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