The Stranded Driver
You are driving along the highway. You see a person stopped on the the road shoulder with their blinkers on. You are tempted to stop and lend a helping hand. But you don’t. You just zoom by and say someone else will help them.
Is it right?
Apparently, it is right. Why? Because other people can help this person and you have other responsibilities. You are responsible for being there for your family. If others can help this person and you stopped for each person stranded on the side, you wouldn’t get your work done and would hardly see your family. So zooming by is the proper response. Perhaps you can offer a little prayer.
If they are in danger, obviously you may be more obligated to help them. Like it says “Don’t stand by the blood of your fellow.”
Order of Responsibility
There is an order of responsibility. You are more responsible for those closer to you.
If it was a family member you saw on the road, you should stop. If you realize that it is a fellow Jew, perhaps you should stop, if you have no other pressing responsibilities.
There was a Gentile that had a Yarmulka in his car in case he had a flat. He noticed that more people came to help stranded people wearing a Yarmulka.
Why do Jewish people come to aid their fellows? Jews are part of one great family, and we are more responsible for family members than others.
Every Jew is responsible for one another.
Each Jews is an integral part of the whole Jewish people. Like each member of a body that is affected by the pain of other parts, Jews feel for the other members of the Congregation of Israel. If one is pained, we experience pain as well because they are an integral part of the whole.
Efforts made by fellow Jews to support the 3 Kidnapped boys in Israel testify to the this. Jews from all walks of life prayed for their safe return.
Characteristics describing Jews are Shy, Merciful and Bestowing of Kindness.
This makes for a caring attitude for the welfare of the nation and other people.
Why Jews win Nobel Prizes?
I believe that the above is one of the reasons why Jews win so many Nobel prizes. Their merciful trait for others motivates them to initiate a project of good for the world. The trait of bestowing kindness motivates them to work hard to achieve the desired result. Like it says, nothing stands in the way of a will.
Whenever we can help we should do our utmost to help – quickly and with enthusiasm – after thoughtful consideration. Apparently if a person asked you to help, G-d determined that you could possibly help this person in some way and you should do your utmost to help given the considerations below.
Is it Possible For Others to Help
One of the greatest Mitzvah that a person can do is to learn Torah.
If a person asks them to do another important Mitzvah when they are involved with learning Torah – they must ask themselves “Can this mitzvah be done by others, so that I won’t have to stop my learning?”
Thus if someone else can do it, it is better for you to continue learning and let someone else do the Mitzvah.
Considerations in Helping
Before a person throws themselves into a kindness project several considerations should come to mind.
Is this permitted from the Torah?
What is the Torah view of what I want to do?
Is it a requirement or a nice thing to do?
Is this my responsibility?
Is this part of my goal in life?
Can it be done by others?
Is it my priority?
Will the time take away from my responsibility to people closer to me?
Does doing it have negative repercussions on other aspects of or people in my life?
Answering these questions will aid a person to sort out what they should be doing or not.
The Torah Commandments encourage a person to help others. Commandments for returning a lost object. Commandments for helping a person load or unload an animal. Commandments to help the poor to love the convert to honor the parents all encourage the active caring of others.
When to Help Others
A true story: People were learning Torah. A wagon driver came barging into the study hall and asked those learning – to help him pull his donkey out of the mud. The people there started deliberating at length – should they interrupt their Torah learning to help the driver? Finally when they came to the conclusion that they should help, it was too late.
They decided the proper thing to do – they should help – but it took too much time. Eventually they were punished for not helping quickly.
The board of directors of a school is approached by another school for background information on a former employee that the new school wants to hire. The school knows of negative information regarding this employee that could help the new institution – like that he mismanaged funds.
They must let the other school know to protect the new school from the same. Otherwise they might be guilt of transgressing the Torah law of “Do not stand upon the blood of your neighbor.” Obviously, a competent rabbi in laws of Lashon HaRah / Evil Speech should be consulted.
When Jewish men pray together, they need 10 Jewish men to say certain prayers – this is called a Minyan – Quorum of 10 men. If people need a Minyan and you are free, your personal preferences should be put aside to help the others or at least help them to complete the Minyan.
How to Help Others
The reason why people rise or fall in life depends upon their view of what is their scope of responsibility.
A married secretary is having a hard time with personal matters, she approaches the boss for support. He does what he can to help and give her comforting words but the brunt of comforting and support should be from her husband. The boss could help his secretary indirectly, by speaking with others – like her family members, or husband, or female employees – to help her with things that other people can help with. For if he helps her directly might create an improper bond of closeness between them. He should help her to a point but the rest he should put on others shoulders – for it is not his problem.
A person proposes a nice woman for a single man to marry. The person knows that she is a good woman. He proposes her to a particular party. The person wavers and is undecided and pushes things off. You can only help him to get married to a point – like it says – you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.
From the laws of charity we learn the greatest way to help others is to empower them to become self sufficient – ie, provide them with a source of livelihood. Like, it is better to give a person a fishing pole than a fish.
Knowing when to say “Not My Problem” – Three Words for focusing your giving
The general rule is to know what is your place. Know what is your responsibility or and what is not. Knowing when to say “Not my problem” can help you to concentrate your efforts and giving to the people towards whom you have greater responsibility. It will also prevent many heart aches.
Do what you can to help, but put the ball into the court of the person who should be helping.
The boss is crying. If you are a female, Call a male co-worker to calm him. Or call his wife. It is not your problem.
The secretary needs financial help, find ways to support her indirectly.
Priorities in Giving
There is an order of priority in giving charity. They help us to learn how to focus our efforts in our giving.
“Aniecha ve-aniei Ircha Anieecha Kodemim” / ענייך ועניי עירך ענייך קודמים (בבא מציעא עא
Your poor people (ie, of your family) and the poor people of your city, your poor people (of your family) come first.
Meaning if you have charity to give and you can give to a Jewish organization that helps poor people, you might reconsider and give to your brother or nephew, or uncle that is having financial difficulties.
The same applies to time.
If your family needs your time, and strangers need your time, you have more of a responsibility to help your family.
Once a person went to talk with a Rosh Yeshiva about problems of Shalom Bayit / Peace at Home with his wife. His wife complained that he was spending too much time on his Job doing Kiruv /Jewish Outreach by helping others, while he was neglecting his family. The Rosh Yeshiva decided that his wife’s concerns were proper and sided with her. The man did not do enough to focus his giving to his family. Unfortunately, they ended up in divorce.
One must know their priorities in giving.
Your greatest responsibility is to give of your time, efforts or support to your people, your family, your immediate family and yourself. Knowing your priorities leads a person to more fruitful and satisfying relationships with people that your are closest with.
It’s also helpful to remember:
One who is compassionate with others, will receive compassion from Heaven. (Talmud: Shabbat)