Poor and Needy in Your Land

Yael Eckstein  |  July 5, 2023

Yael Eckstein and Sarah, an elderly woman in Israel who helps the poor and needy
(Photo: IFCJ)

I have seen her walking around my town in Israel for years: an elderly woman, her face lined with age, a scarf wrapped around her head, going around collecting plastic bottles from garbage cans.

But I never knew who she was. But once, when I came home from work, I was happy to see her in front of my house. Finally, an opportunity to speak to her!

I approached her, said hello and told her my name, and handed her some cash. She told me her name is Sarah. With a glowing smile, she put the money in her pocket. Pointing to the bottles she had gathered that day, she said, “I collect these bottles, trade them in for cash, and send the money to poor people in Jerusalem and Hebron. The holy cities.”

It was at that moment that I knew I was speaking to a righteous woman. Sara is 80 years old. She immigrated to Israel from Yemen. And she walks the streets for 8 hours a day, looking in garbage cans for plastic bottles, so she can turn them in for cash—for about 10 cents a bottle—to send to charity.

I listened to Sarah’s life story in awe. Every word that came out of her mouth was like a prayer for unity among the people of Israel. “We are so blessed,” she told me. “All we have to do is love one another.” Amen, Sarah. Amen.

How many Sarahs are there, invisible to much of the world, who many people might regard as not worthy of attention, but who are doing the holiest of holy work? After we said goodbye, and Sarah continued on her way, I felt as if I had met an angel.

The Bible tells us, “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). How amazing that Sarah—though she lives humbly and has very little for herself—so faithfully follows this commandment.

What a deep, profound reminder we see in her example: sometimes the wisest and most righteous people aren’t the famous ones, the rich ones, or the articulate ones. Sometimes they’re the beggars in dirty clothes. And we need to open our eyes, humble ourselves, and be worthy of receiving their wisdom.

Thank you, Sarah, for reminding me… for reminding all of us. And God bless you.

With blessings from the Holy Land,

Yael Eckstein's Signature

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