There Will Always Be Poor

Yael Eckstein  |  August 25, 2022

Person laying on the ground in a yellow blanket.

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. — Deuteronomy 15:11

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Re’eh, which means “see,” from Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17.

One of the top priorities of The Fellowship is caring for the poor, as more than 900,000 Israelis live under the poverty line. But sometimes people ask me why Israel needs The Fellowship’s help. After all, they say, Israel is a strong first-world economy. Why can’t the welfare system in Israel take care of the needs of Israel’s impoverished?

First, Israel is a tiny country that is surrounded by hostile enemies committed to its destruction. Israel is forced to spend much more on defense than almost all countries in the world. In addition, every Jew from anywhere in the world is welcome to immigrate to Israel regardless of economic need.

The way I see it, by feeding hundreds of thousands of poor Jews in Israel, The Fellowship helps enable Israel to defend itself and to bring home Jews fleeing danger and persecution from the four corners of the world.

There Will Always Be Poor

This week’s Torah portion teaches us the importance of taking care of the poor of Israel. We read, “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”

Certainly, the Bible is telling us to take care of the poor. But at the same time, this verse can at first seem a bit harsh. I mean, God is promising that there will always be poor people! But a close look at the Hebrew helps explain the true meaning of “there will always be poor.”

There are two words in Hebrew for “poor person”ani and evyon. Ani refers to the lack of basic needs such as food, shelter, or clothing. Evyon, the word in our verse, is from the Hebrew root evah meaning “yearn” or “want.” So, essentially ani refers to the fact that someone is poor. Evyon refers to how they feel because they are poor. They feel needy, neglected, and worthless.

The Bible says that there will always be poor people — evyon — in the land and in the world because there is always someone who will feel needy because they have less than everyone around them.

No matter the society, it is a terrible feeling to be at the bottom of the economic ladder. It is our biblical duty to lift these people up, to remind them that they are loved and valued. And this duty is never-ending.

Your Turn:

Join The Fellowship in obeying this biblical command to care for the poor, thereby strengthening Israel.

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