Lamentations: First Kinah – Line 17 Part Two
The second half of the stanza, “for we have shut our hands against the needy,” provides us with more insight into the first half. The stanzas are all cause and effect. The cause has a direct relationship with the effect. We purchase our bread at the peril of our lives because we have shut our hands against the needy. When we shut our hands against the needy, we broke God’s commandment. We also went against the entire system of creation, which is of Chesed, kindness. When we fail the poor we are denying that we are fed only through God’s kindness. We lose our sense that whatever we have comes from God. This is truer in our generation than in any other.
It is too easy in our society to lose track of our success and take credit for ourselves rather than realize that it all comes from God. We will not succeed in feeling God’s Presence in our lives if we fail to see how it is He Who provides our sustenance. Even those who live on charity find it easy to forget that they too are beneficiaries of God’s generosity. Thus, we purchase our bread at the peril of our lives.
Sefat Emet, Shemot: We not only must pursue our livelihood with our bodies, we have reached a point at which we must give over our souls in order to gain our bread.
Ibid : Our bread refers to our faith. In our generation, in exile it is impossible to gain real faith without Mesirat Nefesh, a willingness to give up our lives for truth.