You are a Good Man…
Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 3, 2007
for helping people who you didn’t even know” (from the TV series “Jericho”.)
The saying “Charity begins at home” has been hammered into us to such a degree that the thought of helping someone who we do not know is seen as a mark of a Good Person. There’s something wrong with this picture.
Oh, I agree that Tzedakkah (Righteousness and Justice) cannot be practiced if it has not been taught from an early age, in some manner. But the intention of such teaching should be that the person being taught brings the very idea of Tzedakkah with him or her to others, regardless of relation, as a matter of fact. There’s nothing “Good” in the idea of Tzedakkah (or the less righteous/just idea of Charity) it’s just what it is supposed to be. Righteousness and Justice.
My guess is that people who extend those two values only to their loved ones or their specific community still do it out of a sense of Obligation – which in essence is not less than towards the Stranger. Doing what is my duty is not Good. It’s Righteous. And Righteous is what G-d expects of us.
So being “good” to anyone is what G-d is demanding of us. Let’s not get carried away by the idea that it’s enough to do tzedakkah to our own, and that if we extend it to those we do not know we are “good” – because that is a delusion.
““Justice, justice shall thou pursue!” (Devarim/Deut 16:20 – Parasha Shoftim)” and ” Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for the home-born; for I am the L-RD your G-d. (Vayikra/Lev 24:22)
So we cannot, and should not, treat people differently depending on their status in relation to us, because to do so is a violation of our obligation towards G-d and men – to not violate this has nothing to with being Good. It is just the way things should be.