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N3. Helping Our Neighbor Who Is in Need.    [Make a Comment]

We are to help our neighbor who is in need.

Key Scriptures

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Exodus 23:5 (Maimonides RP202, RN270; Meir MP70; Chinuch C80)
If you see the donkey which belongs to someone who hates you lying down helpless under its load, you are not to pass him by but to go and help him free it

Leviticus 19:16 (Maimonides RN297; Meir MN82; Chinuch C237)
Do not go around spreading slander among your people, but also don't stand idly by when your neighbor's life is at stake; I am ADONAI.

Leviticus 19:18 (Maimonides RP206, RP207, RN304, RN305; Meir MP60, MP61, MN80, MN81; Chinuch C241-243, C431)
Don't take vengeance on or bear a grudge against any of your people; rather, love your neighbor as yourself; I am ADONAI.

Deuteronomy 15:9-11
Guard yourself against allowing your heart to entertain the mean-spirited thought that because the seventh year, the year of sh'mittah is at hand, you would be stingy toward your needy brother and not give him anything; for then he may cry out to ADONAI against you, and it will be your sin. Rather, you must give to him; and you are not to be grudging when you give to him. If you do this, ADONAI your God will bless you in all your work, in everything you undertake - for there will always be poor people in the land. That is why I am giving you this order, 'You must open your hand to your poor and needy brother in your land.'

Deuteronomy 22:4 (Maimonides RP203, RN270; Meir MP71, MN183; Chinuch C540, C541)
If you see your brother's donkey or ox collapsed on the road, you may not behave as if you hadn't seen it; you must help him get them up on their feet again.

James 1:27
The religious observance that God the Father considers pure and faultless is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being contaminated by the world.

James 2:14-17
What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith but has no actions to prove it? Is such "faith" able to save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food, and someone says to him, "Shalom! Keep warm and eat hearty!" without giving him what he needs, what good does it do? Thus, faith by itself, unaccompanied by actions, is dead.

1 John 3:17-18
If someone has worldly possessions and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how can he be loving God? Children, let us love not with words and talk, but with actions and in reality!

Supportive Scriptures

Psalm 82:4
Rescue the destitute and needy; deliver them from the power of the wicked!

Proverbs 19:17
He who is kind to the poor is lending to ADONAI; and he will repay him for his good deed.

Proverbs 22:9
He who is generous is blessed, because he shares his food with the poor.

Proverbs 25:21
If someone who hates you is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.

Proverbs 28:27
He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who hides his eyes will get curses in plenty.

Matthew 5:40-44
If someone wants to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well! And if a soldier forces you to carry his pack for one mile, carry it for two! When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something from you, lend it to him. You have heard that our fathers were told, 'Love your neighbor - and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

Matthew 9:10-13
While Yeshua was in the house eating, many tax-collectors and sinners came and joined him and his talmidim at the meal. When the P'rushim saw this, they said to his talmidim, "Why does your rabbi eat with tax-collectors and sinners?" But Yeshua heard the question and answered, "The ones who need a doctor aren't the healthy but the sick. As for you, go and learn what this means: 'I want compassion rather than animal-sacrifices.' For I didn't come to call the 'righteous,' but sinners!"

Matthew 20:25-28
But Yeshua called them and said, "You know that among the Goyim, those who are supposed to rule them become tyrants, and their superiors become dictators. Among you, it must not be like that. On the contrary, whoever among you wants to be a leader must become your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave! For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serven - and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Matthew 22:36-40
"Rabbi, which of the mitzvot in the Torah is the most important?" He told him, "'You are to love ADONAI your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.' This is the greatest and most important mitzvah. And a second is similar to it, 'You are to love your neighbor as yourself.' All of the Torah and the Prophets are dependent on these two mitzvot."

Matthew 23:11-12
The greatest among you must be your servant, for whoever promotes himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be promoted.

Matthew 25:31-46
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, accompanied by all the angels, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. The 'sheep' he will place at his right hand and the 'goats' at his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. 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 made me your guest, I needed clothes and you provided them, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the people who have done what God wants will reply, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you our guest, or needing clothes and provide them? When did we see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' The King will say to them, 'Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!' Then he will also speak to those on his left, saying, 'Get away from me, you who are cursed! Go off into the fire prepared for the Adversary and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave me no food, thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, a stranger and you did not welcome me, needing clothes and you did not give them to me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they too will reply, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, needing clothes, sick or in prison, and not take care of you?' And he will answer them, 'Yes! I tell you that whenever you refused to do it for the least important of these people, you refused to do it for me!' They will go off to eternal punishment, but those who have done what God wants will go to eternal life.

Mark 3:1-5
Yeshua went again into a synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse him of something, people watched him carefully to see if he would heal him on Shabbat. He said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Come up where we can see you!" Then to them he said, "What is permitted on Shabbat? Doing good or doing evil? Saving life or killing?" But they said nothing. Then, looking them over and feeling both anger with them and sympathy for them at the stoniness of their hearts, he said to the man, "Hold out your hand." As he held it out, it became restored.

Luke 5:30-32
The P'rushim and their Torah-teachers protested indignantly against his talmidim, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?" It was Yeshua who answered them: "The ones who need a doctor aren't the healthy but the sick. I have not come to call the 'righteous,' but rather to call sinners to turn to God from their sins."

Luke 6:36
Show compassion, just as your Father shows compassion.

Luke 14:12-14
Yeshua also said to the one who had invited him, "When you give a lunch or a dinner, don't invite your friends, brothers, relatives or rich neighbors; for they may well invite you in return, and that will be your repayment. Instead, when you have a party, invite poor people, disfigured people, the crippled, the blind! How blessed you will be that they have nothing with which to repay you! For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Acts 20:35
In everything I have given you an example of how, by working hard like this, you must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Yeshua himself, 'There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.'

2 Corinthians 9:12
You will be enriched in every way, so that you can be generous in everything. And through us your generosity will cause people to thank God, because rendering this holy service not only provides for the needs of God's people, but it also overflows in the many thanks people will be giving to God.


This Mitzvah is a natural consequence of the Mitzvah "Loving Our Neighbor, the Stranger, and Even Our Enemy." Scripture requires that we help our neighbor who is in need whether or not we are asked, and whether or not he is a friend. Scripture also commands that help be given even at a cost to ourselves, and therein lies the greatest challenge, which is, "How far must we go to help, and at how great a cost?" Do we give to our neighbor financially to the extent of impoverishing ourselves and our family? Do we rise from our battlefield trench to help our fallen enemy only to get shot ourselves? Throughout life, we encounter situations of these kinds, usually not as extreme, but similar in that helping our neighbor risks something, or takes something away from us with certainty. It may be money, it may be property, it may be time, and it may occasionally be life. There is no biblical formula for when to help, for how much to help, or for whom to help in a given circumstance. We must be tuned into and rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Classical Commentators

There are some differences among Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch regarding one's obligation to unload and reload an animal that belongs to a Jew and that has fallen as a result of its burden. All agree that both unloading and reloading are obligations but in regard to unloading, Meir states that an elder is exempt because it is beneath the dignity of his status as an elder. HaChinuch agrees with the elder exemption in general, but states that the elder is not exempt if he would have unloaded his own animal under similar circumstances. HaChinuch also states (but Meir does not) that if one encounters a friend and a non-friend with a fallen animal at precisely the same time, one must first assist the non-friend in unloading in order to avoid impure intent. Strangely, in regard to the loading of a fallen animal, Meir and HaChinuch state these obligations somewhat in reverse. Meir states that an elder is exempt from loading and reloading unless he would have done similarly for himself, and he states that one must help a non-friend before a friend. HaChinuch, on the other hand, makes no mention of friends, non-friends, and elders being exempt in the case of loading, whereas Maimonides does not allude to these secondary matters at all.

Of significance is that, in the New Covenant Scriptures, Matthew 23:11 and 20:26-27, Yeshua speaks against Meir's and HaChinuch's interpretation that the dignity of an elder causes him to be exempt from helping his neighbor with the neighbor's fallen animal. In fact, Yeshua teaches the opposite when He says:

"The greatest among you must be your servant"


"Whoever among you wants to be a leader must become your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave!"


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