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Occupy New York

Thursday, 16 February, 2012 - 4:00 pm

“G-d helps those who help themselves,” the saying goes.

This week, I feel like I can use some of that help. You see, my wife Esther is in New York, participating in what might be termed the Jewish Occupy of the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. No, she is not there to make a political statement.  Esther is participating in the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Women Emissaries. Fellow Rebbetzins from Congo to Prague join together for a week of support, inspiration and learning.

While she is enjoying a much-deserved spiritual recharge, I am home with our six beautiful children. As I struggle with the tasks and responsibilities that she makes look effortless on a regular basis, I am amazed at the magnitude of her accomplishments.  And I am encouraged at how much we can help each other.

But that begs the greater question, should a helping hand be given even if I don’t try myself?

***

This week’s parsha Mishpatim gives some insight on the notion of seeking assistance.

“If you see the donkey of your enemy collapsing under its burden... you shall surely help along with him,” the Torah states.

The Rabbis point out that “if the owner of the animal went and sat down and said to him, "Since the obligation rests upon you, if you desire to unload, unload," he is exempt, because the verse says, "You shall surely help along with him."  (If, however, the owner was old or infirm, one is bound to do it himself.)”

Expecting someone else to do all the work, when I am capable of doing at least some of it myself – is unacceptable in Jewish tradition. Offering a helping hand when one is doing their utmost – is necessary even to an enemy.

***

Every once in a while it’s good to crouch under the heavy load, as I appreciate the enormity of that burden – and the great relief of aid. Hopefully, I’ll learn to offer even more assistance.

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