#40. Not to Afflict an Orphan or a Widow.
(Exodus 22:22) (Exodus 22:21 Hebrew Bible)
Law has limitation, of both duty and liability. If there is no limitation of duty and liability, law serves no purpose, and men are controlled under the whims and desires of other men. Definition of terms sets the standard for these necessary limitations.
What is a "widow"? It is a female whose husband has died. In certain cases, it is also a widower.
What is "afflicting a widow"? It is denying her financial assistance if she needs it. Some scholars add emotional support to the obligation.
Why is a widow so important to support? She was married, and therefore all her non-adulterous sexual activities, and children thereof, were legitimate and lawful. She is a pillar of feminine righteousness, even if not necessarily a nice person. The widow of a Torah martyr is especially venerated.
How much can the widow expect? Reasonably, economically, to meet her basic needs of food, clothes, and shelter. What is "basic needs"? If the widow lived in poverty, enough to keep her healthy, one should imagine. If the husband now deceased provided a more lavish lifestyle, and did not leave any inheritance or insurance, the stipend should probably be enough to maintain her current residence and basic other needs.
Who pays the widow's bills? If a widow receives support, she should not ask for alms as the poor. Instead, the widow ought to be supported from a general fund for that purpose (even if such government-run entities are subject to fraud, waste, and corruption). In Israel, that general fund would originate in the Temple. Many scholars believe the widow should also receive discounts on goods and services, but formulating and enforcing such percentages is impossible, and therefore it is voluntary. Many scholars also believe the widow should receive due consideration from creditors, but this too is difficult and voluntary.
When the widow gave her last mites (pennies, so to speak) to the Temple (Mark 12:41-44), Jesus proclaimed she had given more than all the others. This was not so much a hail to the widow's generosity as much as a slam on those who permitted the widow to donate back her mites. For though the widow believed she was donating to a good purpose, helping the poor, that good purpose included supporting widows, including herself. The Temple therefore stole from the widow to support the widow! No wonder Jesus criticized!
For how long must a widow be supported? The widow ought to be upheld for as long as she remains unmarried. Some scholars maintain that a widow should remain unmarried, which means her support would be indefinite.
What about widowers? The widow receives support whether or not she has children. The widower with a hardship of small children, limiting his ability to work, would likely be eligible for widow support. This is on a case-by-case basis.
What is an "orphan"? It is a fatherless child. "Fatherless" means the biological father is dead.
Is a child eligible for "orphan support" if the father is still alive but absent?
Why is the father absent?
Is he a runaway husband? He should be retrieved and forced to work, or else jailed for refusing. If the husband is jailed or cannot be retrieved, orphan support for the family should be forthcoming, continuing until the husband submits to his responsibilities.
If she is unmarried but was a virgin before conception, the man who deflowered or raped shall marry her (commandment #301), and may never divorce her (commandment #302). If the man is able-bodied but does not support his family, whether as a lout or a runaway, he should be jailed until he submits to his responsibilities, and the children should receive orphan support. If the man is at any time not able-bodied, the children should receive orphan support.
If she was not a virgin before conception, the children are not eligible for orphan support, even if the father cannot be retrieved, or cannot be convinced to work, or is not able-bodied. Since Torah does not look kindly upon the woman for unwed sex past deflowering (commandment #69), there is no support for disobedience. We cannot reward such disobedience, else it will expand. This is a bad deal for society. What about the innocent child? Those concerned may help individually and voluntarily, without involving those who care more about Torah Law and Torah society.
Children conceived from adultery, incest, or any other forbidden sexual relationship, are not eligible for orphan support. Those with compassion for such children may help individually and voluntarily, without involving those who care more about Torah Law and Torah society.
What about the orphan and widow of a man put to death for a capital offense? If the wife and child were not involved in the sin, they are likely eligible for widow and orphan support.
Listen to today's lesson for much more!
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