“You are not to abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them in any way, and they cry to me, I will certainly heed their cry. My anger will burn, and I will kill you with the sword — your own wives will be widows and your own children fatherless. If you loan money to one of my people who is poor, you are not to deal with him as would a creditor; and you are not to charge him interest.”-Exodus 22:22-25
Compassion and mercy are foundational to the Torah.
These elements are major parts of the Lord’s character and are reflected in His system of justice.
Of those who are weak, poor, and/or helpless, nobody is overlooked.
Following the 10 Words (commandments), God’s rulings first deal with the proper treatment of slaves and then later with the GER or foreigner in Israel’s midst.
We are warned throughout the Bible that if we are to expect to receive God’s mercy, forgiveness and blessings, we must likewise extend mercy, forgiveness and blessings to others, especially towards those who are the weakest among us.
And throughout the Scripture, it is the widows and orphans who are depicted as the most powerless members of society.
The Lord makes it clear that there will be hell to pay if we abuse or take advantage of these helpless women and children who are the most vulnerable to exploitation.
The terms “abuse”, “cry out” or “hear their outcry” echo the language used at the beginning of Exodus to describe the oppression of Israel in Egypt and God’s response to that suffering.
So these verses, like many others, explicitly invokes the Hebrews’ time spent in Egypt as slaves.
Following the commands for the welfare of widows and orphans, instructions on the loaning of money to the poverty-stricken person are given.
If money is lent, no interest is to be charged and if the poor person offers up his coat as security, it must be returned to him before the sun sets and the weather turns cold.
The Hebrew word for coat (or garment or cloak), is SALMAH.
This was basically a piece of cloth that doubled as both a coat and a blanket and was normally the only possession a poor person had.
Again, the central message being put forth is the value of life and that even the dignity of poor person is to be upheld.
Another important thing to keep in mind here is that this law of lending money was only to apply to Hebrews lending money to a fellow Hebrew.
It did NOT apply to gentiles or those OUTSIDE of the group.
From a Torah perspective, the answer to the question of “who is my neighbor?” would be a person who is a member of God’s set apart people, a member of Israel.
This is not to imply that we are to ignore the needy or helpless outside of God’s family, but the Lord commands SPECIAL TREATMENT and PRIORITY for those who are part of the community of God.
And no, Yeshua did NOT change this ruling.
There is actually a lot we can learn from the Orthodox Jewish community in terms of how to operate a community of God.
Orthodox Jewish family life has usually been more stable and Jews have a history of aiding one another more than their non-Jewish neighbors aided each other.
As a result of these factors, the quality of life of the average Jew, no matter how poor, was always higher than of a comparable non-Jew in the same society.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to Yeshua,
crying out, “Lord, Son of David,have mercy on me!
My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
Yeshua did not answer a word.
So his disciples came to him and urged him,
“Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
The woman came and knelt before him.
“Lord, help me!” she said.
“It is not right to take the children’s bread and
toss it to the dogs.”
“Yes it is, Lord,” she said.
“Even the dogs eat the crumbs that
fall from their master’s table.”
Then Yeshua said to her,
“Woman, you have great faith!
Your request is granted.”
And her daughter was healed at that moment.”