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How to “Do for Others”

By Rabbi Yehonatan Salem

At the beginning of the perashah the Torah teaches us the laws concerning a lady who gives birth. After waiting the prescribed time for purification, she must bring an offering of a sheep, and a dove or a pigeon.

The Baal Haturim makes the following observation. Everywhere else in the Torah, when it says that doves or pigeons may be used for a required offering, pigeons are mentioned before doves. Here however, the Torah specifies the dove first. What is the reason for this? He answers that everywhere else offerings require bringing two birds of the same kind. Here, however, the mother who gave birth is only required to bring one bird. It is a known fact that if a dove loses its mate, it will find another one. A pigeon, however, will mourn its first mate forever and will not seek another partner. Hence, the Torah states that since only one bird is offered, it is preferable to take a species that will mate again, as opposed to one that will not.

This teaches us an important concept. When deciding whether    a certain action should be taken, firstly, check if it is correct and appropriate. Then, ascertain the correct way of doing it, bearing    in mind one’s motives and the sensitivities of the parties involved. Even if ulterior motives play a part in one’s decision, nevertheless, this does not disqualify the act. For example, if a person wishes to give charity in  order to  receive  honour, although this  may  not be

the highest level of giving, it is nonetheless a commendable act. If however, the intended action will cause one to act inappropriately or harm someone else, e.g. standing on someone else’s toes in order to achieve one’s aim, although essentially the action is a positive one, it is nevertheless not justified. I remember once hearing about a host who told a guest: “You should come more often. My wife prepares such delicious food when we have guests!”

The Gemara states that if by giving charity the recipient will become embarrassed, it is better not to give. Similarly, although it is a mitzvah to rebuke a wrongdoer, nevertheless, reprimanding him in public for a transgression that he committed, thereby causing him humiliation is no mitzvah. The objective of reprimanding one’s fellow man is to help him better his ways. If one acts incorrectly by embarrassing him, even if he happens to better himself, the method used is unacceptable. We must remember that according to the Torah “ends do not justify the means”. The way to achieve something positive is only through means that do not harm anyone.

Before we embark on a positive action, let us consider the best way to do it. Let us evaluate the ramifications of our actions and consider how other people will be affected by it. If we say something to our friend in a friendly and thought-out way, he will be encouraged and come away with a smile, as opposed to if we say it in a way or in a tone of voice that will break him.

 

Shabbat shalom

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