A Jewish Context for our Work at the ARK

6th & 7th Grade Family Day of Service

רבי שמעון בן אלעזר אומר אף אדם הראשון לא טעם כלום עד שעשה מלאכה שנאמר ויניחהו בגן עדן לעבדה ולשמרה וגו' מכל עץ הגן אכול תאכל (בראשית ב' ט"ו וט"ז

Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said: “Even Adam did not taste food until he had performed work, as it is said, ‘Adonai God took the human and placed him in the garden of Eden to till it and preserve it’ (Gen. 2:15). Only then do we read, ‘From every tree of the Garden you may eat’ (Gen. 2:16).” [This text was compiled by Rabbis J. Rolando Matalon, Marcelo Bronstein and Felicia Sol of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York, NY.]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. Why did Adam have to work before he could eat? How can we put that value into our everyday lives?

2. Does everyone in the world receive food in proportion to the work that they do? What might this text teach us about our responsibility towards those people?

3. What does Adam's command to "preserve it" teach us about our relationship to the earth and the food we eat?

(א) כַּמָּה נוֹתְנִין לְעָנִי, דֵּי מַחְסוֹרוֹ אֲשֶׁר יֶחְסַר לוֹ. כֵּיצַד, אִם הָיָה רָעֵב, יַאֲכִילוּהוּ. הָיָה צָרִיךְ לִכְסוּת, יְכַסוּהוּ. אֵין לוֹ כְּלֵי בָּיִת, קוֹנֶה לוֹ כְּלֵי בָּיִת. וַאֲפִלּוּ אִם הָיָה דַּרְכּוֹ לִרְכֹּב עַל סוּס, וְעֶבֶד לָרוּץ לְפָנָיו כְּשֶׁהָיָה עָשִׁיר, וְהֶעֱנִי, קוֹנֶה לוֹ סוּס וְעֶבֶד. וְכֵן לְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד. לְפִי מַה שֶּׁצָּרִיךְ.

How much is it appropriate to give to the poor? ‘Sufficient for his needs in that which he lacks.’ If he is hungry, one must feed him. If he needs clothing, one must clothe him. If he lacks housing utensils, one must provide him with housing utensils… To each person according to what he needs. [AJWS translation]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What are the limits to this law? How do we know when we have done enough?

2. What is the minimum amount we are to give?

3. How are we doing in Chicago?

4. Looking globally, how are we doing?

מי שבא ואומר האכילוני אין בודקין אחריו אם הוא רמאי אלא מאכילים אותו מיד היה ערום ובא ואמר כסוני בודקין אחריו אם הוא רמאי.

One who comes and says, "Feed me," we don't investigate to see if they are deceiving, rather we feed them immediately. If they were naked and came and said, "Clothe me," we investigate to see if they are deceiving. [AJWS translation]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. How would we investigate any requests for help?

2. Why investigate one type of request and not the other?

3. Do you agree with these priorities? Why?

4. What type of situation does this text suggest? Does it still happen today?

(ז) חַיָּב לְהַקְדִּים לְהַאֲכִיל הָרָעֵב מִלְכַסוֹת הֶעָרֹם.

(ח) אִישׁ וְאִשָּׁה שֶׁבָּאוּ לִשְׁאֹל מָזוֹן, מַקְדִּימִין אִשָּׁה לְאִישׁ. וְכֵן אִם בָּאוּ לִשְׁאֹל כְּסוּת. וְכֵן אִם בָּאוּ יָתוֹם וִיתוֹמָה לִנָּשֵׂא, מַקְדִּימִין לְהַשִּׂיא הַיְתוֹמָה.

If two poor people approach you, and one is hungry for bread and one needs clothing, you first feed the hungry person and then clothe the naked one. If a man and woman both come seeking food, you first feed the woman. If a man and a woman both come seeking clothing, you first clothe the woman because it is more embarrassing for her than for the man.

מר סבר בזיוני דאיניש עדיפא ליה טפי מניחא דגופיה

If a man is seeking food and the woman clothing, we first feed the man because physical pain is worse than shame. [Translation by AJWS]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. How does not having food affect someone? How is this different than the effect of lacking clothing?

2. How does the Aruch HaShulchan prioritize the different types of requests? The different people making the request?

3. Do we address similar conflicts today? How do we address conflicting needs?