Don't Give It Personally
"Rather, you shall open your hand to him; you shall lend him his
The Torah instructs us to be open-handed with our destitute brethren.
Initial assistance should be in the form of a gift. However, continues
the verse, if the recipient is reluctant to receive a gift, we should offer
assistance in the form of a loan, thereby allowing him to maintain his
dignity. The next verse warns that although the seventh year of the Shemitah
cycle cancels all outstanding debt, we should not be deterred from issuing
the loan. Why does a person who has already shown his willingness to
assist the destitute without any compensation require a warning not to
hesitate if the assistance is in the form of a loan?
When a person gives a gift he experiences a sense of expansiveness. Often it
is this feeling of magnanimity which motivates his actions When the
assistance is provided as a loan, the sense of magnanimity is lessened.
Furthermore, if eventually the loan is cancelled, the recipient does not
attribute his good fortune to the actions of the lender. Rather than the
lender being perceived as a benefactor, he senses that the recipient has
taken advantage of him. Since this is a less than satisfying experience for
the lender, the Torah must reiterate that the focus of his actions should be
the well-being of the needy and not his own personal satisfaction.
Consequently, money should be lent unhesitatingly even when the seventh year
1.See Rashi 15:8
That's What Friends Are For
This is what you shall not eat...the chasidah..." (14:12,18)
The Ramban teaches that the birds which we are prohibited to eat exhibit
negative character traits, and therefore, consumption of those birds would
infuse these traits into the person's character. In light of this, it is
difficult to reconcile the Ramban's teaching with the Talmud's explanation
of the name "chasidah", one of the prohibited birds, so called for the
"chesed" - "kindness" which it displays towards its friends. How could
kindness be considered a negative trait?
An answer is given in the name of the Kotzker Rebbe.Since the bird only
performs acts of kindness for those whom it considers to be its friends,
this is a negative trait. One should be sensitive to anyone in need, not
exclusively to friends.
However, this answer does not completely solve the problem. According to the
Kotzker Rebbe's explanation, why does the Torah define the bird by the
positive acts that it does, rather than by its negative trait, the chesed
which it does not do?
Perhaps the Talmud is teaching us that since the bird considers that which
it does for its friends to be a chesed, this is a negative trait. One should
view that which he does for his friends as an expression of his commitment
to the relationship, not as a charitable act.
1. See Ramban Parshas Shemini 11:13, these are birds that exhibit cruelty.
2. Chullin 63a.
Body And Soul
"You are children to Hashem, your G-d - you shall not cut
The Torah juxtaposes the statement "banim atem laHashem" - "you are children
to Hashem" to the prohibition "lo sisgodedu" - "you shall not lacerate
yourselves". Rashi explains that since we are Hashem's children we should
not deface our bodies. The Talmud teaches that there are three partners
in the creation of a human being, the father, the mother and Hashem. Parents
supply the child with physical characteristics and Hashem supplies the child
with a soul. Why does the verse describe our relationship with Hashem as
His children in the context of safeguarding our physical form?
From the expression "lo sisgodedu" the Talmud derives the prohibition
against separate factions observing divergent Halachic practices within the
same community ("aggudos" - "groups"). Since the prohibitions against
lacerating ourselves and having separate factions are both derived from the
same expression, a unifying thread between them must exist. What do they
have in common?
In the first paragraph of the Shema we are commanded to teach our children
Torah, "veshinantam levanecha". Rashi comments that "your children"
refers to "your students" for a person's students are considered as his
children. To support this notion Rashi cites our verse in Parshas Re'eh,
"banim atem laHashem" - "you are children to Hashem". How does this verse
indicate that a person's students are his children? It is apparent from
Rashi's comments that he understands that through the study of Hashem's
Torah we become His students, and can therefore be referred to as His children.
The Mishna teaches that a person is obligated to return his teacher's lost
object prior to returning an object lost by his father, for his father
provides him with a finite existence while his teacher offers him an
infinite existence. The Torah taught by his teacher not only guarantees
the soul an infinite existence, but also elevates the body given to him by
his father from a physical and finite state to a spiritual and eternal state.
Although Hashem is clearly the source of the soul, Torah study enables the
body to be perceived as a product of the same source. This message is
punctuated by the commandment against lacerating our bodies because we are
Hashem's children; through Torah study we become His students and thereby
His children, body and soul. The reconciliation between body and soul is the
ultimate proof that we emanate from one source. Since only the Torah is able
to accomplish this reconciliation, it is of the utmost importance that the
Torah itself be viewed as emanating from one source. Any action distorting
this truth undermines the efficacy of the Torah to unite and reconcile all
apparent divergent forces in creation. It is therefore self-evident that
separate factions observing divergent Halachic practices within the same
community cannot be tolerated.
6.Bava Metziah 33a