OU Torah Insights ProjectParashat Reeh
Describing, in Parshas Reeih, the mitzvah of giving charity to the poor, the Torah tells us, "You shall surely give him, and your heart should not feel bad when you give him."
Why would the Torah suspect that one would feel bad upon helping a poor person?
How can doing a mitzvah leave a bad taste in ones mouth? What causes such a reaction? More important, how can we avoid having such feelings ourselves?
In the mishnah in Avos, Rabbi Shimon said, "If three have eaten at the same table and have not spoken words of Torah, it is as if they have eaten of offerings to the dead idols."
Obviously, such a gathering mandates that words of Torah be exchanged. If a person eats alone or even with someone else, the Chasam Sofer,zt"l, explains, it is possible that neither one has any Torah knowledge.
But with three people at the table, surely one is capable of explaining some point in the Torah to the others.
How then is it possible that no one speak words of Torah at such a gathering?
In answering, the Chasam Sofer points to a Gemara that discusses the composition of the Birkas Hamazon, which these three will say at the conclusion of their meal.
The first blessing was instituted by Moshe Rabeinu, the second blessing was instituted by Yehoshua, the third blessing was instituted by Kings David and Shlomo, and the fourth and final blessing was instituted by the Men of the Great Assembly at Yavneh.
We do indeed presume, says the Chasam Sofer, that one of these three at the table is familiar with this Gemora. Thus, he reasons, inasmuch as the Birkas Hamazon contains all elements of Torah--Moshes blessing representing Chumash; Yehoshuas blessing representing Neviim; David and Shlomos blessing representing Kesuvim; and the final blessing representing the Oral Tradition--what need is there to add other words of Torah?
It is due to this laxity that their meal is so poorly judged.
This laxity is what can cause one to dislike the mitzvos. Those who seek to circumvent any aspect of observance will ultimately find their observance trivialized.
People who seek to avoid doing mitzvot or look for loopholes are the same people who, when they actually do the mitzvah, do so half-heartedly, feeling bad in the process.
Even when it comes to something as natural as giving to the poor, a person who has not properly trained himself in the proper performance of mitzvos may find that he resents helping out.
We must encourage and educate ourselves to do more, not less, which will result in our enhanced enjoyment of the mitzvos.
Rabbi Moshe SternRabbi Stern is rabbi of the Shaarei Tefillah Congregation in Toronto, Canada.