This week’s Parsha contains the mitzvah of giving tzedakah to a brother or sister in need:
“פָתֹחַ תִּפְתַּח אֶת-יָדְךָ”
“You shall surely open your hand” (Devarim 15:8)
Jewish wisdom teaches us that the holy words of the Torah carry many layers of depth simultaneously. When Hashem speaks to us about helping someone in need, this is not only a command to teach us how to build just societies and responsible communities, but also how to take care of ourselves. At any moment in time, each and every one of us has a part of us that is very much in need; a broken heart begging for fixing, a tired body waiting for rest, a lonely soul yearning for comfort.
Jewish wisdom also teaches us that no word of the Torah is superfluous, inviting us to question why this verse uses the double language of “petach tiftach” – “you shall surely open.” As we step into the month of Elul, the time in the Hebrew calendar devoted to teshuva – to transformation and repentance, to returning to the truest version of ourselves – there is so much in our way. We all have guilt that we hold on to, grievances that lay heavy on our hearts, burdens that weigh us down, expectations that hold us back, and stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves, others, God, and the world that stop us from living lives of truth, freedom, and happiness.
The emphasis on this open hand reminds us to let go. In order to help ourselves and others, we must release our grip on the unhealthy, untrue, and negative aspects of our lives. This pasuk is flanked by the mitzvot of giving tithes and observing shemita, two commandments that further emphasize the imperative of releasing our grasp and relinquishing ownership.
May we be blessed to learn how to truly open our hands and let go, giving ourselves the greatest tzedakah that exists in this world. May we let all the things that hold us back trickle off our fingertips like water, sprinkling the earth beneath us with all we need to grow. And may this blessing of release carry us into a shemita year of true freedom and liberation.