Samson Raphael Hirsch, Deuteronomy 15:11
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"For there will never cease to be needy ones in your land, which is why I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy kinsman."

The verse does not say “from your midst [mikirbecha]” or “from the midst of your land [mikerev artzecha],” but “from the midst of the land [mikerev ha’aretz].” It lies well in the course of the natural development of things that, left to itself, the greatest differences in fortunes, want and surplus, poverty and riches, should exist next to each other. The inequality of mental gifts would already produce such inequalities [of living standards] as a natural consequence. Also, two children starting from home with exactly equal means, with one, say, having to provide for a single child, and the other for a large family, would soon present a very considerable difference in their means, and if the latter meets illness and other misfortune, the second generation would already be in dire need, in contrast to the rich opulence of the other branch of the family. But this condition of need, which naturally arises elsewhere in the world, you are not allowed to occur “in your land [be’artzecha],” in the land of God’s Torah. In the carrying out of the special guidance which is attached to it, where the Torah effects the ironing out of these naturally occurring contrasts, there every poor person is to find in their rich relatives, their “sibling,” there every poor and needy person belongs to you, …[and] under the regime of a Torah-dutiful nation, a Torah community, penury and need would only temporarily affect any individual, and with God’s assistance, be changed to a happy existence on Earth, commensurate with the dignity of a human being. [Isaac Levy translation from German, modified]

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Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. What is Rav Hirsch suggesting about the existence of poverty and the re-distribution of wealth?

2. What creates poverty?

3. What is the community's role in response to poverty?

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Time Period: Modern (Spinoza through post-WWII)