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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Behar (71)

Leviticus 25:35

And when your brother who is with you, becomes impoverished and his hand falters, and you shall strengthen him - stranger or resident - so that he can live with you.


And you shall strengthen him Rashi: Do not let him decline and fall and then it will be difficult to raise him up. Instead strengthen him from the moment his hand falters. What is this similar to? To a burden on a donkey, while it is still on its place [on the donkey's back] one person can grab it and set it straight. But if it falls to the ground even five cannot lift it up.

Let us analyze this meaningful comment.

What would you ask?

Your Question:


A Question: Why does Rashi give us the story of the donkey? Why is it necessary and is there any basis in the verse for its lesson?

Look closely at our verse. Compare our verse with verses 25:25 and 25:39 and 25:47.

Hint: How are they similar and how different from our verse?

Your Answer:


An Answer: They are similar in that they are all cases of "your brother becoming impoverished."

But they are different because all of the three other verses tell us what he did after becoming impoverished. In one case (verse 25) he sold his property; in another case (verse 39) he sold himself to a fellow Jew; and in the third case ( verse 47) he sold himself to a stranger (non-Jew). But in our case after "impoverished" comes "his hand falls." Clearly we are talking about a process, two stages during impoverishment even before the man takes any concrete action.

Then we are told to "strengthen him." Meaning, start helping him before he is forced to take desperate, irreversible action. That is why Rashi tells us about the burden on the donkey. Before the poor man actually falls all he needs is strengthening, but should he actually fall (should the burden hit the ground) then the help necessary will be more difficult.


Notice where this verse is situated in this chapter, in comparison to the verses we compared it with.

What do you see?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Our verse comes after the verse of selling his property but before he sells himself. Can you think why this is? Your Answer:

An Answer: If the man still has property then he is not totally impoverished; he owns real estate, so he can help himself. No outside help is necessary - yet. The verse after our verse (39) tells of a case where he must sell himself - that is really degrading. So our verse which comes before that tells us to strengthen him before he takes that debasing step.

The Torah details different stages of impoverishment and different ways we can help our fellow.


Verse 25:47 says: "When the hand of a stranger and a resident with you will achieve, and your brother becomes impoverished with him and he is sold to a stranger, resident with you, or to an idol of a stranger's family."

We don't want this man to be sold to a stranger or a resident. Yet our own verse (35) tells us to strengthen the hand of the stranger or resident (both considered "brothers") so that he won't be forced to be sold, to whom? To another "stranger or a resident."

In other words we care enough about the stranger or resident that we don't even want him sold to another stranger or resident lest he not be treated decently!

The Torah's sensitivity and our responsibility extend to others beyond our own Jewish brothers.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.

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