Kedoshim: Bringing Chesed to a Higher Level

My neighbor's oldest son just got engaged.  Wonderful young man. Really well put together.  In a way, I was hoping he would have a hard time finding someone for a few years, so I could take him for my daughter.  Oh well.

So, this past Shabbos, another friend and I were peppering him with questions about his soon-to-be and giving him much needed "advice," like "Are you sure you want to go through with this?"

One such question he didn't know the answer to was, "when's her birthday?" And when he didn't know, we told him that that is one of the most important facts to remember.

When my wife heard this, she put on her smug face and asked me, "So… when's MY birthday?"


Okay… um… on to Torah!

"And you shall love your fellow as yourself" (Vayikra 19: 18).

Rav Shimshon Pincus notes that there are certain mitzvos that you'll find people "psyching themselves" up for.  It could be lulav, baking their own matzas, Seder night, davening, Shabbos, etc.  There will be people who will go through extensive preparations beforehand, including extra tefillos based on Kabbalah, going to the mikvah, etc. Yet, you will rarely find people who will do such a thing before giving tzedakah, visiting somebody who is sick, and other such mitzvos that deal with other people.  Yes, they do the mitzvah and they do it with a smile, and they enjoy the mitzvah, but there isn't this same level of preparation and excitement beforehand.

He answers that those mitzvos in which you are doing good for another person, most people do them because they themselves feel good about it.  It's natural that when you loan money to somebody or give tzedakah, you feel good.  When you bring food for a sick person, you feel good about yourself.  Nothing wrong with that at all!  That's something that Hashem programmed into human beings.  But, there is a difference between doing a mitzvah because it makes you feel good about yourself and doing a mitzvah because that is the will of Hashem.  Again, we're not talking about good or bad here, we're talking about good and better.  While it is definitely good to do chesed for somebody because it makes you feel good, it is certainly better to do it knowing that you are doing what Hashem wants from you.  It makes the mitzvah to be on a higher level, if you will.

With this same idea, Rav Pincus says, there is a flipside, a negative that comes from this, and we see this a lot.  When it comes to personal danger, a person will weigh chances of something happening with convenience. For example: a person enters his car ... is it worth the convenience to make sure he and his children are buckled up properly, when they are only driving five minutes?  Here, the person is thinking from his own perspective rather than a Torah perspective which demands that he fulfills the mitzvah of "guarding ones life."  But, we don't think about that, since we are so used to operating our lives according to our own viewpoint instead of the viewpoint of the Torah.  Same with smoking.  Same with not eating in a healthy way.  Or exercise.  Or even how we deal with money.  In these areas, we're used to thinking from "our gut" and not thinking: "what does Hashem want from me?"

Therefore, it's important to start thinking more often: "what is demanded of me right now?" rather than just doing.  Do I have an obligation to buckle up for such a short drive? Am I allowed to continue to eat in such a manner?  When I do this chesed for this person, what is the best way to do it?  When I loan this money, how can I do it in a way that will make it easy for the person to accept and repay without embarrassment.

By constantly thinking that each action in life is most likely governed in some way by the Torah, we have opportunities to stay away from many sins, and many opportunities to raise the level of the mitzvos that we are currently doing.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!