Rabbi's Message

  • February 05, 2016


    Wanted to share a beautiful insight from Rav Mordechai Schifman of Emek Hebrew Academy in Los Angeles. Have a great Shabbos!!

    "If you see the donkey of someone you hate crouching under its shall surely help him..." (23:5)
    The Torah relates that we are obligated to help a person in a predicament even if we strongly dislike him. The terminology used by the Torah to describe the assistance is "azov ta'azov imo" - "you shall surely help him". The use of the term "azov" to describe the help which we are obligated to offer is perplexing. The Hebrew word for help is "azor", not "azov", which is usually translated as "to leave".  This would lend the opposite interpretation to our verse, i.e. "if you see a person requiring help, you shall surely leave him". Why does the Torah use a word to describe assistance which has the opposite connotation?
    The Vilna Gaon teaches that if a person wants to understand the true definition of a word, he should find the first time that it is mentioned in the Torah. The Torah first uses the term "azov" in Parshas Bereishis when describing a man leaving his parents' home to find a mate for himself: "Al kein ya'azov ish es aviv ve'es imo vedavak be'ishto" - "Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife". The reason why marriage is described in terms of leaving the parents' home is to teach us that marriage entails an individual separating from his parents and acquiring his own independence. Only when a child is in a position to be become independent of his parents is he ready to establish a new home with his wife. The term "azov" means more than just "to take leave of", rather it should be understood as "to become independent of" as well.
    The greatest assistance we can offer a person in need is to bring him to a point where he no longer requires support. In so doing, we are giving him his independence. Unfortunately many charities or social services actually create a greater dependency upon the assistance that they are supplying while squelching the motivation of their beneficiaries to become self-sufficient. The Torah is teaching us that when we assist our fellow man, it should be done as an act of "azov", providing the recipient with the ability to take leave of us and no longer need our assistance.