On "Forced Compassion"

Texts from Our Tradition:

Text 1:
It is a positive commandment incumbent on every Jew to give charity as it is written:

"You shall surely open your hand to him." (Deuteronomy 15:8)

"You shall support the stranger, and your brother shall dwell with you." (Leviticus 25:35)

He who sees a poor man begging and ignores him, refusing to give him charity transgresses a negative commandment as it is written:

"You shall not harden your heart and you shall not close your hand from your poor brother." (Deuteronomy 15:7)

From Maimonides, Laws of Gifts to the poor, 7:1-2

Text 2:
R. Shlomo Ben Aderet teaches that it is improper that those who are needy should depend totally on the yetzer ha tov (positive inclination) of others in order to survive. In the view of Judaism, the community can enforce philanthropy or at least the minimum amount necessary. This makes tzedakah a combination of coercion and free will; forced compassion may not be morally laudable- however, it does increase the sum total of goods.

Drawn from:
Contemporary Jewish Ethics and Morality: A Reader
Elliot Dorff and Louis E. Newman, p 339

Guiding Thoughts:

1. While charity in its literal sense, a result of caring, tzedakah is a mitzvah and is obligated. What kind of influence could these differences have on the patterns of giving from each community?

2. If the needy should not have to depend on the whims of the positive inclinations of those who are more fortunate, what role does the individual have in enforcing his own commitment to tzedakah? What are current methods of coercion?

3. What is the significance that failing to give breaks both positive and negative commandments?

4. R. Shlomo Ben Aderet focuses on the bottom line. What are ways that contemporary communities can enforce giving.