“Long time no see, old friend!” Chesky exclaimed. “How’s business?”
“It’s certainly not what it used to be,” Ralph replied. “I’ve closed two of my stores and laid off many employees.”
“I’ve been hearing the same story from others,” Chesky said. “It’s tough out there. Hey, there’s my taxi! Gotta run!”
Chesky climbed into the car and zoomed away, leaving his “old friend” Ralph standing alone, at a loss about what to do to save his business. Chesky’s loss, however, was even greater. Ralph’s revelation of his financial problems was an opportunity to fulfill a positive Torah commandment that fell on deaf ears.
The passuk says (Vayikra 25:35): “If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him…” One who becomes aware of another’s financial difficulties is expected to react with support that will prevent the victim of a business turnaround from falling even further. The assistance may be money, advice or actual physical participation in the other’s affairs — but support is required.
Rashi quotes a parable comparing the victim to one who has a load on a donkey that’s about to fall to the ground. Should one help prevent the boxes from falling to the ground, he will have made it possible for the owner to secure his merchandise. If, however, the bystander allows the cartons to fall, it’ll take more than five people to reload the goods.
When one becomes aware of another’s impending failure, an ounce of prevention is expected. Similarly, when another is slipping in the spiritual realm of Torah learning and mitzvah performance, “helping” is also required. An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of intervention.
One More Second: Another Thought for the Day
In that world (of business), we tell ourselves, we need not be quite so precise in our wording or accounting. In that world we may take advantage of the “other guy’s” innocence, because after all, the rule is “let the buyer beware.” It is his job to protect himself, and if he does not, it is not our fault, but his. We see such forbidden practices as excusable and essentially acceptable because we are blinded by our desire for profit. (Rabbi Yaakov Hillel, Ascending the Path, p. 65)
Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is the author of 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.