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Must we always be charitable? - In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z'L)
“Perhaps you will see the donkey of someone you hate lying under its load - will you refrain from helping him? You shall surely help along with him.” (Exodus 23:6 - translated according to Rashi’s interpretation)

The Torah commands us to not watch others suffer from their burdens and, if we have the ability and means to help, we must do so.

The Kli Yakar (Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz, Prague; 1550 –1619)comments on the odd phrasing in the verse - “will you refrain from helping him?” Why doesn't the Torah just simply command us to help? Most positive commandments do not come with a question of if an individual shall do something or not; rather, the Torah just gives us our obligation.

The Kli Yakar explains that the answer lies in the latter half of the verse. “You shall surely help along with him.” Only if the individual in need is working together with the one helping him does one have an obligation to help. “Along with him” means that we should question whether the person receiving help is doing his utmost to help himself; then we have an obligation to step in and help. If the person refuses to help himself, the answer to the verse's question, “will you refrain from helping him?” is yes! We do not have to help him because we are not helping “along with him”.

Astonishingly, the Kli Yakar concludes that those who put their weight on the public for support and refuse to help themselves are not entitled to charity. On the other hand, when we see someone try to carry his own burdens, we have an obligation to help.
Shabbat Shalom

 


 
   
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