The verse tells us that we should not harden our heart or shut our hand before a poor person. We can understand that shutting our hand refers to withholding financial assistance. But what does it mean to harden one’s heart?
The Ibn Izra explains that the hardening of one’s heart refers to withholding emotional support. A poor person is often as in need of encouragement as he is of money. Being poor can cause a person to lose his confidence and motivation. The Torah reminds us that when we assist a poor person financially, it is very important to lift his spirits and make him feel worthy.
The Talmud states that “one who gives a coin to a poor man is blessed with 6 blessings…and one who encourages him with words is blessed with 11 blessings”. The Maharsha explains that uplifting a person emotionally improves the person’s being while one who supports him financially only improves the poor person’s pocket.
I remember once passing a beggar and I did not have money with me to give him so I said “Sorry my brother I don’t have money on me”. He responded with a smile and said, “No problem. I am so happy that you called me your brother.”
Of course, words of encouragement are not a substitution for assisting financially, but they certainly add a golden lining.
So the next time you help a poor person financially, try to do it together with a warm smile and words of encouragement.