Obligation to “The Least of Us”-TORAH & GOSPEL JUSTICE: One Voice
“We are afraid that Chairman [Paul] Ryan’s budget reflects the values of his favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand. Survival of the fittest may be okay for Social Darwinists but not for followers of the gospel of Jesus.”
– from a letter to then-Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, signed by ninety priests at Georgetown University, Spring, 2012
“To roll back tax credits for the poor to help fund tax breaks for the rich is morally reprehensible.”
– Rev. Jim Wallis, president and CEO of the social justice organization Sojourners.
“What happens when even a person with a job does not earn enough to buy necessities? How can we create a society in which people who [are willing to] work are guaranteed [to earn] enough to support a family?”
“There shall be no needy among you” and a few lines later [we are commanded] to open our hands to the poor “for the poor shall never cease from your land.” (Deuteronomy 15)
This presents at once a long-term vision for ending poverty and a short-term strategy for alleviating immediate needs. We may not ignore an individual’s need for food, clothing, housing. Too, we may not focus only on band-aids; we must…create [the political and economic conditions that tend toward ending] poverty.
– Rabbi Jill Jacobs, then-Exec. Dir., Rabbis for Human Rights/North America
Twenty-Five Ancient Responses:
1. Proverbs 22:16 He who oppresses the poor to increase [what he has] will lack.
2. Amos 5:11, 12 To the extent you exploit the poor…you’ve built youselves houses of stone but you won’t live in them…for your evil is known [when] you turn aside the poor at your door.
3. Amos 8:4-6 You [are evil] who swallow up the needy, and make the poor of the land fail.
4. The Talmud on Charity: We are obligated to be careful with the Commandment to give to the poor more than with any other Commandment, for Charity and Justice are the signs of righteousness.
5. The Talmud on Charity: Learning Torah without Charity and Kindness to the Poor is meaningless.
6. Deuteronomy 15:7-11 If there are among you poor people…you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from them. You shall open your hand wide willingly, lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.
7. The Talmud You shall give to the needy; your heart should not be grieved when you give.
8. Deuteronomy For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you: You shall open your hand wide to your poor.
9. Proverbs 17:5 He who mocks the destitute shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over their disaster will not go unpunished.
10. Matthew 19:21 Jesus said, If you want to [follow me] sell your possessions and give to the poor. [Only then may you] follow me.
11. Ezekiel 16:49 This was the sin of Sodom: Sodom was arrogant, overfed and unconcerned and did not help the needy.
12. Proverbs 16:8 Better is a person with just a little decency than one with great income with injustice.
13. Psalm 82:3 Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy.
14. Deuteronomy 24:19-21 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the poor, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow.
When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the poor, the fatherless and the widow.
When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the poor, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow.
16. Exodus 23:11 During the seventh year, let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor may get food from it.
17. Leviticus 23:22 When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the stranger.
18. Exodus 22:25 If you lend money to one who is needy, charge him no interest.
19. Luke 6:20-21 Then he looked up at his disciples: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry, now.
20. Luke 4:16-19 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been raised, he went to the synagogue…[and] stood up to read and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
[I am here to] bring good news to the poor. [I proclaim] release to the captives…let the oppressed go free.
21. Matthew 25:34-36 [You are deserving], for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.
22. Mark 10:21-22 Jesus…said, You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and then follow me…[and] when you give a meal invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.
23. Matthew 25 [Jesus said] What you do you to the least of us you do to me.
24. The Talmud You must teach as God teaches, without collecting a fee.
25. This is the Whole of Torah Law: Do not do to another what is detestable to you.
Torah (Instruction/ Teaching) comprises the five books of the written Jewish Law:
In/At the Beginning (Genesis)
Now, These Are The Names of the Sons of Israel (Exodus)
And He Called (Leviticus)
In The Wilderness (Numbers)
These Are the Words that Moses Spoke (Deuteronomy)
Talmud is the medieval multi-volume Rabbinic commentary on all aspects of the Torah. It is often referred to as the Oral Law (although it is, and has been for ages now, written down).
And for good measure, let’s consider this one once again:
What you do to the least of us you do to me.
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