If you see your enemy’s donkey lying under its burden would you refrain from helping him? You shall surely help along with him. (Shemos 23:5)
You shall surely help along with him: Heb. עָזֹב ךְתַּעִזֹב עִמוֹ. This עִזִיבָה is an expression of help… (Rashi)
The phraseology here always troubled me. How does the word “azov” which is usually associated with “abandonment” suddenly come to mean “helping” here? Why is it repeated, “azov, tazov- imo”.
I was there at the Bris at Yeshiva that wintry morning. The baby received his beautiful Jewish name, Yaakov, after Reb Yaakov Kaminetsky ztl. Who had passed away that year just months earlier. The bagels and lox were great and the room was crowded with important guests. It was warm and pleasant beyond description. One of the biggest treats, however, was the opportunity to bask in the glory of someone known as the Tzadik of Monsey, Rabbi Mordechai Schwab ztl. who was honored with Sandik. (I remember my Rebbe telling me once, a lot of people are called a Tzadik, perhaps potentially we all are, but “he’s a real Tzadik!” Just to have met him or interacted with him was a life altering experience.) Well, Reb Mordechai needed to leave right after the Bris and before the meal to return to his Yeshiva, Beis Shraga. An hour later after the event I had the privilege to meet up with the individual who had the merit to drive Rabbi Mordechai Schwab to his destination.
While we were all inside the building and enjoying the festivities a heavey wet storm was dropping many-many inches of sloppy wet snow outside. By the time the driver was securely belted in along with Rabbi Schwab and another passenger, a large accumulation of snow was blanketing the parking lot. The driver described his frustration at trying to move the car up a slight incline but how at one point his wheels started to spin. There was no choice but that the other passenger had to go out of the car to give a push so that they could extricate themselves from the deepening hole the tires were polishing. Anyone who drives in snow knows the routine, how you rock and roll from reverse to drive and then the big push to liberate.
This is where the story gets interesting. The driver described with awe and wonderment how amazed and impressed he was about what happened next. The elderly Rabbi Schwab was standing behind the car ready to push. For the next few minutes a spirited “discussion” unfolded. The driver refused to allow Rabbi Schwab to push. He insisted that the Rabbi sit in the car while they “take care of the situation”. Rabbi Schwab absolutely refused to budge. He stood there with his hands on the back of the car with snow falling all about him and he was unmoved by their appeal about his honor or age. He repeated over and over again, while waiting for the driver to engage the car, “Azov, tazov imo!”
They could not prevail with logic or passion. He just stood his ground repeating emphatically, “Azov tazov imo” -“you shall surely help along with him!” With Rabbi Schwab’s help they extricated themselves and the driver remained stunned by his stubborn insistence to do what was right!
Maybe azov, abandon means to abandon one’s selfishness and to merge totally with another’s situation. Imo – is to be with the other person. “Be with the person!”Identify with their pain! Maybe Rabbi Schwab was just answering them in their debate, justifying his choice, by the refrain, “Azov tazov imo”, or perhaps he was reminding himself to overcome his own feelings of coldness and natural resistance and to make the effort to actually enter another’s world! DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.