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open to include all enemies. Sirach's reference to the "neighbor," even one who has done "wrong," makes his instruc- tion vulnerable to exclusivistic interpretations. Finally, the "center of gravity" for Sirach's instruction lies in the commandments and the "covenant of the Most High" (Sir. 28:7). Jesus' instruction, on the other hand, is grounded in his bold, "But I say unto you," which is set over against what "was said of old" (Matt. 5:43-44).

Piety

The role of Leviticus 19:18 in Sirach's response to personal enemies who are neighbors and friends is a clue to the importance which religious realities and practices play in his style of wisdom. One sphere in which religious practice impinges upon a context of potential enmity is the realm of almsgiving.

Do not avert your eye from the needy, nor give a man occasion to curse you; for if in bitterness of soul he calls down a curse upon you, his Creator will hear his prayer.

Sirach 4:5-6 Care for the poor had long been recognized in Israel as a peculiar concern to Yahweh. The law codes enjoined measures which aimed toward some mitigation of poverty in

Israel.166 Israel's prophets had taken up Yahweh's advocacy

166

Cf. Exod. 23:10-11; 19:9-10; Deut. 15:7-11.

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