Ki Teitze – Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19 – The Torah portion (parashat ha shavuah) for Shabbat, Saturday, Sept. 6
What is a society’s obligation to the poor and needy? The Torah seems clear, “You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pawn. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment. When you reap the harvest in your field and overlook a sheaf in the field, do not turn back to get it; it shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow — in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. When you beat down the fruit of your olive trees, do not go over them again; that shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not pick it over again; that shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. Always remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.” (Deuteronomy 24:17-22) Our Torah seems clear, whether loaning money or providing support, we are obligated to help the poor. Judaism assumes that our experience of Egyptian slavery will give us a special empathy for the needy and God expects us to act on that empathy and help the poor and the neediest among us.