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Ki Seitzei

by Rabbi Yaakov Menken


"You may not look upon your brother's donkey or ox fallen in the roadway, and turn your eyes away from them; rather, you shall surely lift them up with him." [22:4]

We see that we are obligated to help another person to replace a burden on top of an animal, when the latter is struggling to lift it. The Medrash points out that the verse only obligates us to help - but not to replace - the owner. One can imagine the owner walking away, saying "since you have the Mitzvah to load the animal, do your Mitzvah!" The Medrash says that in such a case, there is no obligation to do the owner's work for him - for the verse says "with him," excluding one who fails to do anything on his own behalf.

The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, says that this same principle applies to spiritual matters. If a person works to improve himself, then Heaven helps him. If he says "guard my tongue from evil" when concluding his prayers, and then he himself makes an effort to refrain from gossip and other evil speech, Heaven will assist him - he will find that people stop coming to him with their own gossip. But if a person merely pays lip-service to the concept, making no attempt to improve his own behavior, then how can he request Divine Intervention? He first needs to try to uplift himself, and then G-d will help him to rise.

Similarly, our morning prayers read, "open our eyes [to understand] your Torah." If we don't sit down after prayers to study, then how can this prayer be accepted?

The Chofetz Chaim offers a parable: imagine someone asking a friend for a loan. The second man agrees, and asks the borrower to please visit him at home where he will gladly give him the money he needs. If the borrower is lazy and never goes, then can he be upset at the lender's failure to fulfill his promise?

Similarly, we ask G-d to help us to grow and to come closer to Him. We ask him for Torah knowledge. G-d listens! And He answers, "your request is good. Now take out a book, and I will enlighten you." If we run out the door instead, and never bother to sit down to learn, what do we expect?

The Talmud says [Tractate Makkos 10b], "in the path that a person wants to go, they guide him." We first need to demonstrate that we want to go in that direction!


AND A CYBER NEW YEAR TO YOU: Project Genesis proudly unveils new technologies and, of course, extensive Torah archives to help guide you through the holidays. The answer to your greeting-card needs: Virtual Rosh HaShanah Cards from Project Genesis! Just launch your browser and head for http://www.torah.org/services/greetings/ . Virtual Rosh HaShanah Cards are cool, fast, easy, free, reliable (you receive automatic confirmation when your friend reads the card)... and are a _great_ way to encourage your friends and neighbors to join our learning program.

Speaking of which, you should definitely visit http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/elulrosh/ for YomTov classes on the month of Elul and Rosh HaShanah. We'll be adding relevant material from other classes shortly!

Return to our Home Page regularly to hear the Shofar, intended to remind us of the approaching High Holy Days. Join our Yomtov class to learn more about the month of Elul, Rosh HaShanah, and holidays to come - send email to yomtov-request@torah.org with "subscribe" in the text of your message.


Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.

 






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