Thursday, February 20, 2020

ki tireh chamor sonacha -- lending a helping hand

Two editorial notes: 1) The shtickel torah this week should be l'iluy nishmas my father, whose yahrzeit is this Shabbos.  2) If you have time for nothing else, skip down to the Meshech Chochma at the end because it’s too tremendous to miss.
Ki tireh chamor sonacha … azov ta’azov imo (23:5)
כִּי-תִרְאֶה חֲמוֹר שׂנַאֲךָ רֹבֵץ תַּחַת מַשָּׂאוֹ וְחָדַלְתָּ מֵעֲזֹב לוֹ עָזֹב תַּעֲזֹב עִמּוֹ:
Who is the “sonacha” the pasuk is speaking about?  How can you hate your fellow Jew?  (How do I know, other than the gemara says so, that the pasuk is talking about a Jew?  The Netziv and Malbim in a few places distinguish between an oyeiv and a sonei.  An oyeiv displays animosity openly; a sonei lets it percolate inside.  Had the pasuk been speaking about an aku"m, then it would be an oyeiv -- the animosity would be open -- not a sonei).
Answers the gemara (Pesachim 113b): the pasuk is speaking about a ba’al aveira, someone who it is a mitzvah to hate.
What exactly does the mitzvah here requires of us?  Does it mean we have to make an exception and put aside the hate and help out, or does it mean to help out in spite of the fact that you are allowed to hate this baal aveira?   
It could be that Rashi and the Targum disagree on this point.  Unlike Rashi who learns that “azov” = “ezra,” help unburden the animal, the Targum explains that “azov” here means what we usually think that root means –- to leave/put aside.  The end of the pasuk is not talking about what to do with the animal, but rather what to do with your emotions -– put aside the hatred you may feel towards that sonei and help him out in his time of need (see Ralbag). 
This same point may be a machlokes Rambam and Tosfos. 
The gemara elsewhere (BM 32) writes that given the choice of unloading the animal of an oheiv or loading the animal of a sonei, it is better to load the sonei’s animal and reap the benefit of overcoming one’s yetzer hara.
Tosfos (Pesachim 113) asks: if we are speaking about a baal aveira who one is allowed to hate, then why should one overcome the yetzer to do so? 
Before getting to Tosfos’ answer, here’s how the Rambam (end of Hil Rotzeiach)formulates this din:
השונא שנאמר בתורה לא מאומות העולם הוא אלא מישראל והיאך יהיה לישראל שונא מישראל והכתוב אומר לא תשנא את אחיך בלבבך. אמרו חכמים כגון שראהו לבדו שעבר עבירה והתרה בו ולא חזר הרי זה מצוה לשונאו עד שיעשה תשובה וישוב מרשעו. ואע"פ שעדיין לא עשה תשובה אם מצאו נבהל במשאו מצוה לטעון ולפרוק עמו ולא יניחנו נוטה למות שמא ישהה בשביל ממונו ויבא לידי סכנה. והתורה הקפידה על נפשות ישראל. בין רשעים בין צדיקים מאחר שהם נלוים אל ה' ומאמינים בעיקר הדת.
According to the Rambam, Tos question doesn’t even get off the ground.  There is a mitzvah to hate the baal aveira for his specific misdeed, but in this case, failure to help may lead to the sonei’s death.  You are allowed to hate him, not kill him!
(How does that fit the gemara’s words that say this is an issue of being koveish the yetzer?  Shu"T Maharam Shi”k (OC 81) explains that the yetzer we are talking about is that of the baal aveira.  You want to prevent the baal aveira from continuing to succumb to his yetzer and doing sins?  Then show him a helping hand.   Show him you care.  That’s the way to bring people back into the fold.)
Tosfos Pesachim (113b, see B.M. 32b) explains away the contradiction in gemara’s by positing two levels of hatred.   There is the permitted hatred for the baal aveira due to his specific sin, and then there is the problem of that hate spinning out of control and developing into a vicious cycle of recriminations and hostility between both parties.  You can hate the guy for the specific aveira he did, but you still have to help him out lest that hate turn into something greater if left unchecked. 
According to the Rambam, sinah is pushed aside completely because we are dealing with a case that has sakanas nefashos ramifications.  According to Tos, the mitzvah of sinah remains in place, albeit tempered and held in check.
Two points of derush:
The din is that you only have to help unburden the donkey if it’s “imo,” with the owner's participation.  If the owner of the animal sits down for a coffee break and expects you to unload his animal, you have no obligation to do so.  Kli Yakar writes that this same principle applies to tzedakah.  This serves as an open rebuke, he writes very forcefully, to those who expect others to support them but make no effort to earn their own keep or better their situation.

That point is worth a whole post in itself, but it's not my topic.  I want to come back to the Maharam Shi"k.  The chassidishe seforim see the pasuk as alluding to your neighbor who is struggling under the burden of chumriyos, under the burden of aveiros, turning  him into a sonei.  "Imo" has an important lesson here too.  Don’t think you can willy-nilly lift your neighbor up and force him back into the fold against his will.  It only works if happens “imo,” with his participation and cooperation, and that has to be earned. 
Second point is an amazing Meshech Chochma, who points out that this same mitzvah appears in Parshas Ki Teitzei with one important difference:
 לֹא-תִרְאֶה אֶת-חֲמוֹר אָחִיךָ אוֹ שׁוֹרוֹ נֹפְלִים בַּדֶּרֶךְ וְהִתְעַלַּמְתָּ מֵהֶם הָקֵם תָּקִים עִמּוֹ:
Lo tireh es chamor achicha or shoro niflim ba’derch… hakeim takim imo (devarim 23:4)
No longer are we speaking about the “sonei.”  Instead, the mitzvah is defined as helping “achicha.”
Says the Meshech Chochma: Parshas Mishpatim is pre-cheit ha’eigel.  When Klal Yisrael was unsullied by sin, then a baal aveira can be a sonei.  But we don’t live in that world anymore.  Each and every one of us has our own burdens of cheit.  Therefore, don’t be so quick to look down on the other guy.  Now, everyone is achicha.


  1. -- "According to the Rambam...we are dealing with a case that has sakanas nefashos ramifications. According to Tos, the mitzvah of sinah remains in place, albeit tempered"

    Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak (113b) uses a verse from Mishlei [8:13] to teach "it is a mitzvah to hate". does another proverbial verse unite the two positions above? if >so'na'a'cha< hungers, feed him bread; if he thirsts, give him water (25:21) -- there Rashi mentions both the literal meaning >and< the Rabbis high-resolution mugshot of a Mr. Yetzer Hara...

    -- {"(devarim 23:4)" -- 22:4}

    "Parshas Mishpatim is pre-cheit ha'eigel"; "Now, everyone is achicha"

    lest one think that the levi'im, because they resisted that cheit, needn't help lift a load, hinei: they must lift--and themselves carry--the parts of the mishkan on the occasion of relocation b'midbar [as the general population must help lift a burden on the occasion of 22:4]. as for the mikdash, [on the occasion of their individual service,] levi'im must lend a helping song to their brothers the kohanim as they lift the korban tamid to shamayim...

  2. -- when we come to Bamidbar 22:33, and see that Hashem's malach 3 times maintained the awful burden [Bilam himself] on the donkey, we question 22:5-- should we really help unload a struggling chamor?

    until we reach the bracha against enemies, Shemonei Esrei #12, with 4* imprecations uttered (t'akeir...v'tachnia) for ridding the donkey of a bad rider!

    *'3, you're overruled!'

    -- "Now, everyone is achicha"

    except he who died at the eglah arufah, in which case a heifer that has never done work, never borne a load [that might be, with assistance, re-loaded], is axed: this Jew, even had he once been a "baal aveira", who had, when it mattered, no help from a brother* Jew, had been better served by a barebacked cow, than by the loaded one for which he was killed [Rambam's case]...

    *eglah arufah, Yosef's last sugya with Yaakov, before his brothers betrayed him to Egypt (brothers who later, in inexplicable dreams, saw cashcows of Egypt {Bereishis 41:26} dressed in ketones ha'pasim [just as some pet owners today adorn their dogs when it is cold])...