Seeking the Needy

Yael Eckstein  |  December 16, 2022

Elderly needy Jewish woman eating soup

She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
—Proverbs 31:20

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

People always ask me what motivated my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, of blessed memory, to start The Fellowship. There are so many reasons I could give you, but as his daughter, I’ll say this: My father did not believe in waiting for the needy to come to him.

My abba was active in seeking out the needy, searching for those who most needed assistance and proactively stepping in to provide it. That was who he was before The Fellowship, and it’s what The Fellowship is all about to this day.

A biblical example of someone who went out of her way to extend her hand to those who were in need is the Shunammite woman who helped the prophet, Elisha. A wealthy woman, she noticed that Elisha frequently traveled through the area. Not satisfied with merely giving him food as a rest stop on his journey, she actually built a room for him to stay in whenever he was passing through.

When Elisha offered to speak of her to the king, something that would be a great step forward for a woman of wealth and local status, she refused, saying, “I have a home among my own people” (2 Kings 4:13).

In other words, she had no desire for status. This statement is also the Bible’s way of hinting at her role as provider for all those in need in her area. “I have a home among my own people” implied that even though she was wealthy, her primary concern was the local people who depended on her.

Seeking the Needy

The Shunammite woman was a shining example of the woman of valor described in Proverbs 31: “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”

The Hebrew here for “extends” is shilcha, literally “she sends out her hands.” In other words, she didn’t wait for the needy to come to her asking for help. She didn’t just help those who sought her out. She extended her hand and sought out the people who were in need.

After the Shunammite woman was blessed by Elisha and gave birth to a son, the boy fell ill and died. Elisha was able to bring him back to life in the merit of her selfless charitable acts. As Proverbs states, “Tzedakah [righteousness] delivers from death” (Proverbs 10:2)

Your Turn:

Think of a few ways you can be proactive in identifying and seeking out the needy in your community. Take action to help them, emotionally, financially, or by getting the word out to others who may be able to help.

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