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Lamentations: First Kinah – Lines 23-24 Part Four

“Leaders were hanged by their hand because they plundered and robbed the loot of the poor.” Isaiah 3:14: “The Lord will bring this charge against the elders and officers of His people; ‘It is you who have ravaged the vineyard; That which was robbed from the poor is in your houses.”

TB Shabbat 54b-55a “Whoever can protest against his household and does not protest, will be punished for the sins of his household…the people of his city…against the entire world! Rav Pappa said, ‘Those of the Reish Geluta are punished for the entire world…for they should have instructed the leaders below them to protest.’

The leaders of a generation are charged with teaching those below them how to protest. They are responsible for the entire world. It is easy for a leader who is inundated with questions from individuals to become so involved with the countless individuals who turn to him for help to lose sight of his broader responsibilities to the broader community. The time and energy spent responding to endless stories of suffering, requests for guidance and even questions about individual communities can distract from the leader’s responsibility to the entire generation. But he is still held responsible. He must develop students who can deal with all the problems of the generation inside and outside the Yeshiva world.

Yalkut Shimoni, Volume 1:802: “ So too, when the Jews listen to their leaders and their leaders do not take care of all their needs great guilt hangs over the heads of the leaders.”
TB Berachot 6b “Rabbi Chelbo said in the name of Rav Huna, ‘Whoever knows that his friend will greet him should greet him first. If his friend greets him and he does not return the greeting he is called a thief as it says, “That which was robbed from the poor is in your houses.” Rashi: “The poor person has nothing for you to steal from him other than not to return a greeting.” It is clear from the Gemara that robbing the poor refers to more than money. It refers to depriving someone of his dignity even to the point of not greeting someone first! We are stealing from the poor when we see a stranger visiting a community and we do not greet him. We are robbing the poor when we see someone suffering or lonely and we do not reach out. We, who are so busy, are still responsible to greet another human being and make him feel welcome. When we see someone in shul who is raising money and we hand him money without a basic greeting as one would a friend we are robbing the poor.

Zohar, Tazria 44b: “What is ‘robbed from the poor’? One who desires another man’s wife.” We can assume that the other man doesn’t necessarily know that the other desires his wife, yet, it is considered stealing. Chazal are teaching us much higher levels of sensitivity that are demanded of us. When this Kinah speaks of robbing the poor it is goes far beyond material possessions.

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