Giving a Helping Hand by Shlomo Yaros


In Parshat Behar we learn the mitzvah of “Vihechezakta Bo,” to strengthen someone who is having a problem.  Rashi points out that this means that if a person is in a downward spiral it will be much easier to help that person get back on the right track before they have already fallen to great depths.  This is comparable to a heavy object falling to the ground.  Even a very weak person is capable of restoring the object back up if it has fallen just partially, but if it has fallen to the ground, even a very strong person would have difficulty picking the object back up.  Many other Rabbanim also point out similar ideas - that the key is catching the person’s fall in the early stages because it is a far greater challenge to help a person who is so depressed.

The Torah Temimah takes a different approach.  He explains that although it is important to catch a person’s collapse at an early stage, a way to understand the pasuk is that we must continue to help the person even if once is not enough.  If four or five times is not enough we must continue to help.

The Or Hachayim takes yet another approach that this mitzvah is specifically referring to repentance.  He explains that it is teaching us that if a person is leaving the proper Jewish life then we must give him the strength to do Teshuva and become a more Torah abiding Jew.  This explanation can be combined with either of the other explanations to explain how according to the Or Hachayim someone would help the person who needs to do Teshuva.

Perhaps there is another understanding of the Pasuk based on the Rambam’s different levels of giving Tzedaka.  The Rambam believed that the highest level of giving Tzedaka was finding the poor person a job; this gives the person the emotional strength and resources to no longer need Tzedaka.  We can learn from this that the most important way of strengthening people who are in need of help is not finding a short term solution or fixing their problems for them, but rather guiding people how to fix their problems on their own because in the end that is the best and most lasting way to help those who are in need. 

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