ki tzaitzai

This Shabbos we read Parshas Ki Tzaitzai. In the Parsha one of the laws the Torah tells us is the Mitzvah to help another Jew with his or her burden. “Do not see the donkey of your brother or his ox falling to the ground and hide yourself from them; you shall surely stand them up imo - with him”. The practical applications of this mitzvah, although we don’t often use donkeys today, are very common. For example, if you are walking down the street and you see your neighbor struggling with a load, or trying to unload a burden from his car you have a mitzvah to help your neighbor with their load.

The Talmud asks, why does the Torah say that we should unload the animal imo - with him? Couldn’t the Torah just have told us that we have to unload the animal? The Talmud answers that the Torah comes to address the following scenario: Steven is coming down the road with his ox. There is a load that Steven is trying to get off of the animal. Richard is passing by and sees Steven and the load, and says to Steven “I’d love to help you!!! Look at this wonderful opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of helping the owner of an animal with its load”!!!!! Steven responds, “Great!!! Since you have this mitzvah, I will take a walk around the block and allow you to unload the animal”!!! This is why the Torah writes imo - with him. Only if the owner of the animal is doing what he is responsible to do, is there a mitzvah to help him. If he wants to just take it easy and have someone else do his work for him, there is no mitzvah to do so.

The Chofetz Chaim said, from here we derive a most important lesson in our own lives. Three times a day we ask Hashem at the end of the amidah “Please stop my mouth from speaking evil”. We ask Hashem to help up keep Shabbos, keep kosher, and act as honest G-d fearing Jews. We recognize that to succeed in life we need help from Above. Will Hashem help us? Will we get that Divine assistance?

The answer is, it depends on us. Hashem applies this same yardstick of imo – with him. If we try our best to do our part in keeping the commandments and being honest Jews, then Hashem helps us to do the rest. The internal and external challenges surrounding us can be overcome.

However, if we only wait for Him to help us, but we don’t try at all, Hashem says – if he or she are not trying themselves, why should I help them?

This is the beautiful lesson that the law of helping another with his or her burden teaches us, the idea of taking responsibility for our actions and taking the first initiative to correct them.