Well, that’s encouraging, but 3 verses later we read, “If , however, there is a needy person among you…” (Deut 15:7), but hang on. Four verses later we read, “There will never cease to be needy ones in your land” (Deut 15:11)
So which is it? There won’t be any needy, there might be someone who’s needy, or there will always be someone who is needy?
There’s a clue in the text that follows each of these scenarios.
The first one – There shall be no needy among you, since Adonai your God will bless you in the land …if only you need and take care to keep all this Instruction.” That is, it’s all theoretical. There won’t be any poor because God will bless you, if you keep the instruction.
The next situation gets more concrete: “If there is a needy person, one of your kinsmen in the Land that God is giving you, do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman” Lend him whatever he needs. But then the text goes on to speak about the Shmitah year, the 7th year when all debts are forgiven. The text says not to let the fact that the Shmitah year is coming make you hold back from helping out, that the worry about not getting paid back would influence your help. Finally, the third situation brings it all back to reality and simplicity.
There will always be needy, “which is why I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy”
We started in Eden. And theoretically, if we’d stayed there, there would never be any needy. But we left the Garden and went into the real world. And in the real world, there are going to be people who need help. But what to do about them? Where is the guidance?
The second situation gives us that, but with something extra. The text tells us why you’re supposed to help others, but that also it is too easy to fall into thinking about yourself as you reach out your hand. “What if he never pays me back?” “Beware, lest you harbor the base thought…”
Then there’s the third situation. There will all ways be people who need help, and for them, you don’t think about getting paid back, you don’t think about what year it is, you just open your hand to the poor. But it’s a commandment. It’s a commandment because it may not come easily, but it’s the way we are supposed to treat each other. We’re not in Eden, where all was perfection. The world needs healing, people need help, and The Torah tells us the truth – that we have a job to do in this world, and here’s how you begin to make it better.