Parshas Mishpatim

Do You Truly Want to be Happy? The Secret is…

“If you see your enemy’s donkey struggling under its load … You shall repeatedly help him”. (Shmos 23:5)

Rabbi Yisroel Salanter zt”l once shared a compartment on the train with another Jew. The other fellow did not realize that he was in the presence of a great Torah leader. He acted continuously rude and obnoxious during the ride. Later, when the man found out the identity of his compartment mate, he went to Rabbi Yisroel and begged for forgiveness. Rabbi Yisroel quickly forgave him. In addition, Rabbi Yisroel went out of his way to help this man. When questioned why, Rabbi Yisroel explained, when a person feels offended or embarrassed, deciding to forgive the person will not suffice to wipe away the ill feelings. The only way to remove resentment from the heart is to do a concrete action of helping the person who had offended you (Talelei Oros by Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rubin).

If you see your enemy’s animal struggling under a load that is too heavy for it, it is a mitzvah to help him unload the heavy burden. The Talmud (Pesachim 113B) asks, why we consider this your enemy’s animal? Doesn’t the Torah say that you are forbidden to hate another Jew (Vayikra 19:17) in your heart? The Talmud answers that we are speaking about a person to whom it is a mitzvah for you to hate! You were the solitary witness who saw this person do an immoral and abominable act, making him a rasha in your eyes (If two people witnessed this act then the sinner could be brought to court and it would be a mitzvah for everyone to hate him. Since only you saw the act, you are not permitted to testify in court. However, you are still obligated to hate him). Even though you hate this person, the Torah obligates you to help him with his animal. The reason is to prevent the hatred from increasing and snowballing to a level that is not warranted. Tosefos explains that the animal owner sees the hatred reflected on your face and therefore also hates you. If you do not help him, he will hate you even more. That feeling will show in his face. When you see that, you will hate him even more. …..

HaRav Alter Henach Leibowitz z”tl says that when you help him with his animal, you are supposed to fulfill the mitzvah in its entirety and with joy, as you do any mitzvah. We see that you can have two powerful, yet contradictory, feelings in your heart at the same time. On the one hand, you feel hatred for this person. On the other hand, you are doing the mitzvah out of love for him.

HaRav Alter Henach Leibowitz z”tl says that the Targum Onkelos goes even one step further. He says that while you are in the act of performing the mitzvah, you should remove, from your heart, all your feelings of hatred towards him. Apparently, you should act with the same feelings of love that you would have for any Jew. When you finish helping him, you should restore your previous feeling of hatred towards him. Amazingly, the Targum Onkelos feels that a person is capable of completely removing the feelings of hatred that he feels in his heart, albeit temporarily.

No person is perfect. We all err, and, at times, we wrong our friend who then gets angry at us. Our friend also errs and causes us to be angry at him. The anger can lead to a degree of feelings of hatred, even though that is forbidden from the Torah. However, as the Targum Onkelos says, we can remove those feelings of hatred from our heart. How do we do so? Rav Avraham Pam zt”l (in Rav Pam on Chumash by Rabbi Sholom Smith) quotes the Talmud (Derech Eretz Zuta -2) which says, “If one wishes to increase his love for another person, he should exert himself to do kindnesses to the other person.” This will erase any ill feelings one person has towards the other.

This is a very valuable tip to help us have happy relationships with others. If we are upset at someone, we should act with kindness towards them, and sometimes do multiple acts of kindness. That will help us remove our negative feelings towards them and ultimately will make us happier. Isn’t that what we really want? To be happy?