Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Sender Rozesz. Sender Rozesz is a practicing attorney with a background in Jewish pluralistic education for adults. Sender Rozesz is Jewrotica’s resident Double Mitzvah columnist. The views reflected in his writing represent his own personal views, and are not intended to reflect the views of any organizations, institutes or associations with whom he may be affiliated.

Rated PG

Biblical hints of how essential men and women are to each other crop up in the most interesting of places.

Among the many Mitzvot discussed in this week’s Parshah, Re’eh, is the importance of charity. Of course, Torah doesn’t just talk in terms of charity as that word is used in common social discourse. That charity often means giving up a few coins, perhaps even a few dollars, to someone in need. We walk away feeling good about ourselves and our generosity, and the needy person now has another dollar to his or her name.

It’s a good thing, it’s a Mitzvah, and something that we should be doing on a daily basis. But how far will that dollar go? What can a person who is at the point of seeking handouts do with a dollar? Sure, we imagine that we are not the only ones giving out dollars; surely many people give a dollar, and all of those dollars add up to something substantial. We tell ourselves this, but do we really know? Do we wait around to see whether others have the same idea?

Torah standards of charity actually command that “you shall surely open your hand to him, and you shall lend him sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking.” [1] The commentaries immediately make clear that the syntactic emphasis in this commandment require that we open our hands even multiple times for the same person; and that if the needy person does not wish to accept freebies, then we should offer the money as a loan. [2]

Perhaps most significantly, the Torah makes clear that we are to provide support “sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking” — quoting Midrash, Rashi states that this means providing “even a horse to ride on and a servant to run before him,” if he is accustomed to this type of lifestyle.

In other words, the Torah ethic of charity means to make your fellow whole again; to make him complete. To restore him.


In describing the poor person’s lack, the Torah states “sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking.” In Hebrew, these words are “dey machsoro asher yechsar lo.” The Talmud notes that, although Torah is precise in its every letter, the word “lo” at the end — “he” — appears to be entirely superfluous. Torah could easily have said “sufficient for his needs which are lacking”; why the extra word “he”? Why “lo”?

The Talmud states that the extra word “lo” refers to a wife, noting another place in Torah where an extra “lo” is used. In the very beginning, when G-d sees that Adam is alone, He says: “It is not good that man is alone; I shall make him a helpmate opposite him.” Again, there is that extra word “him” — it could have simply said “I will make a helpmate opposite him.” By using the word “lo” — “I shall make him” — G-d was making a very profound statement about men and women and what they mean to each other.

A spouse is not merely an extra, and not even merely a helpmate. By creating Eve, G-d really was “making him.” Without Eve, Adam was a half a person, inherently deficient. Eve, the other half of Adam’s body and soul, completed him.

There are many things that a person might need. Food, clothing, shelter, freedom. But there are few things that actually touch our core; that are tied to our very essence and identity; that complete us. “Lo” teaches us that a spouse is such a thing.

It’s not like we necessarily go through single life feeling this enormous gap, feeling fragmented. Indeed, we may relish our independence, our personal space. Adam himself had no complaints. He didn’t ask for G-d to create Eve. He was living the high life, the uncontested master of all of creation. Yet G-d, from His divine vantage point, looked down and immediately concluded “it is not good that man is alone.” Man really does require his other half in order be whole, and in order to fulfill his purpose and destiny.

In the context of a person in need — the topic of this week’s Parshah — the word “lo” teaches us that we should endeavor to find him a spouse. There are two practical ramifications to this. One is that a spouse might have a talismanic effect on the person’s financial condition. After all, as the Talmud says elsewhere, “the blessing of the house is only due to the wife.” [3]

On a deeper level, however, the Torah alludes to the fact that we are all poor when we are incomplete; and that the Mitzvah of tzedakah — of charity, of fulfilling the needs of another — certainly incorporates helping a person find his or her soulmate, and to finally achieve completion of body and soul. In this respect, being a matchmaker or a shadchan is just as important and charitable — if not more so — than providing financial assistance.

Ultimately, however, we eagerly await the fulfillment of G-d’s promise earlier in our Parshah that “there will be no needy among you, for the Lord will surely bless you in the land the Lord, your G-d, is giving you for an inheritance to possess.” [4]

Shabbat shalom!

Works Cited

[1] Deuteronomy, 15:8.

[2] See Rashi.

[3] See Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 59a.
[4] Deuteronomy, 15:4.