Pain can be primarily physical in nature but it creates a mental spin-off, which can be more stressful than the aching bodily symptom. A young boy who falls down and scrapes his knee, is often suffering in greater measure from a bruised ego than a bruised body. It has been my experience when seeing children trip that sometimes the best therapy is to laugh it off as an amusing spectacle, whereas offering what would seem the more appropriate sympathy only serves to exacerbate the hurt. The pain of a slap is tolerable, but the disgrace and disparagement is insufferable. Thus we find the Talmud admonishing one who slaps another Jew:
Reb Chanina said, slapping a Jew is tantamount to slapping the Divine Presence (Sanhedrin 58b)
For people who have fallen upon hard times and their economic position has taken a downturn, the loss of stature is more difficult to bear than the lack of comfort. When trying to help people who are suffering, alleviating the spirit is more important than the empirical deficiency.
Reb Yitzchok said: He who gives a small coin to a poor man obtains six blessings, whereas he who addresses the downtrodden with words of comfort obtains eleven blessings. (Baba Basra 9b)
Moreover the laws of giving charity are structured to remove the heartache and anxiety that comes with losing one’s wealth.
”you shall not harden your heart, and you shall not close your hand from your needy brother. Rather, you shall open your hand to him, and you shall lend him sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking”. (Devorim 15:7-8)
Isn’t it obvious that we are meant to provide for his deficiencies; what is the point of informing us that our charity should provide that “which he is lacking”. Rashi, commenting on the verse quotes from the Talmud:
Even a horse to ride on and a servant to run before him. (If he has been accustomed to such a lifestyle). (Kesubos 67a)
This is what is the Torah meant by “which he is lacking”. In addition to providing the indispensable needs and ensuring he has critical funding for survival, we are to restore his previously elevated standard of living.
But isn’t this a tall order? Here I am driving around an old rusty Buick and I have to raise funds so this pauper can drive a deluxe premium Porsche. Yes. If charity is about making sure the poor of the world don’t go hungry you are absolutely right, but Tzedoko isn’t only about averting hunger or about providing a basic standard of living. Rather, Tzedoko is also about providing him with his dignity and removing his mental stress. The rich man who has suffered a severe downturn will not cease agonizing because he can procure his basic necessities. Only with restoration of his prior comforts will his misfortune be alleviated.