Parashas Behar

This week’s parashah discusses caring for the poor. David HaMelech declares (Tehillim 41:2): “Fortunate is he who pays mind to the needy; on the day of trouble Hashem will deliver him.” The Gemara in Nedarim 40a comments: “There is no needy one (דל) other than a sick person, as it is written (Shmuel Beis 13:4), ‘Why are you sick (דל) like this?’” Now, the word דל is used countless times in the Bible to mean needy, so it is odd, the Maggid says, that on account of a single instance where דל is used to mean sick the Gemara equates דל with sick. The Maggid explains the Gemara as follows. There are two types of benefactors who provide aid to the poor. There is the benefactor who aids a poor person only when he knocks on his door, describes his plight, and pleads for help. And then there is the benefactor who actively pays mind to the poor – who, out the goodness of his heart, approaches poor people and asks them about their situation. There is a key difference between these two types. Suppose a poor person falls ill and is unable to go begging door to door. In such a case, a benefactor of the first type will not show the person any compassion, for he will not know of the person’s needs. But it is different with a benefactor of the second type, who is always looking into how others are faring. If he notices that the person has not been around, he will for sure ask about his welfare, and then go to visit him to see what he needs and provide help.
Hashem similarly has two different modes of relating to people: There is the mode of “he will call to me and I will answer him” (Tehillim 91:15), and then there is the mode of “and it will be that before they call, I will answer” (Yeshayah 65:24), which means that even when a person does not present a prayer, Hashem will take note of the person’s needs and help him. And, as always, the way Hashem acts toward a person depends on the way the person himself acts. If someone helps poor people only when they approach him, Hashem deals with him via the mode of “he will call to me and I will answer him.” On the other hand, if someone makes it his business to look into the welfare of others, Hashem deals with him via the mode of “before they call, I will answer.” And as with the two types of benefactors, there is a key difference between these two respective modes. Occasionally there occur periods of trouble when Hashem is subjecting the world to judgment and the gates of prayer are closed. During such a period, a person whom Hashem deals with via the first mode will not receive Hashem’s help, whereas a person whom Hashem deals with via the second mode will.
We can now understand the Gemara’s comment on David’s statement. The Gemara is not saying that דל is not a general term for sick, but rather that in the context of David’s statement, the term דל refers specifically to a needy person who is also sick. David is saying that if a person actively pays mind to the poor, and helps him even when he is too sick to come and ask, Hashem will deliver him even in the harsh times when the gates of prayer are closed.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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