title.jpg (23972 bytes) subscribe

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

Ki Savo

When you have finished tithing every tithe of your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give to the Levite, to the proselyte, to the orphan, and to the widow, and they shall eat in your cities and be satisfied. Then you shall say before Hashem, your G-d, "I have removed the holy things from the house, and I have also given it to the Levite, to the proselyte, to the orphan, and to the widow, according to whatever commandment You commanded me; I have not transgressed any of your commandments, and I have not forgotten. I have not eaten of it in my intense mourning, I did not consume it in a state of contamination, and I did not give of it for the needs of the dead; I have hearkened to the voice of Hashem, my G-d; I have acted according to everything You commanded me" (Devarim 26:12-14).

The above text is known as vidui ma'asros in which an observant Jew declares that he has complied with and fulfilled all of Hashem's requirements of him concerning the tithing of his produce and its proper distribution to those who are eligible to receive them. When it comes to helping a fellow Jew, it is not easy for one to say to Hashem, "I have acted according to everything You commanded me." Hashem's demands are great and he wants us to really do our best to help those who are less fortunate than we are. Sometimes we think that just making a half-hearted attempt is enough, but that is far from the truth. The following story illustrates to what extent we must exert ourselves to try to help someone in need.

Former Member of Knesset (Israeli Parliament), Rabbi Menachem Porush, was, for many years, head of the Orthodox Religious political party, Agudas Yisrael, whose offices are on Press Street in Jerusalem. Right opposite his office lived the Brisker Rov ztvk"l, Rabbi Velvel Soloveichik. Rabbi Porush would act as the Rov's liaison and was often called by him to receive instructions. This was especially true when it involved helping an individual.

One Friday, Rabbi Porush had been by the Rov several times, and the Rabbi had mentioned that there was someone who needed help desperately but, although he wanted very much to assist him, he could not think of any realistic way to do so.

A short while before Shabbos, one of the Brisker Rov's children came to Rabbi Porush's home and informed him that the Rabbi wants him to come to him immediately. Rabbi Porush was very concerned. He knew that the Rov was not well and suffered from Asthma and he was concerned that perhaps his being summoned at such a late hour might indicate that the Rov's health was not stable. He doubted that he was merely being called concerning a Klal Yisroel matter since it was too late to do anything substantial and, besides, the Rov would surely have told him earlier in the day, during one of his visits. Consequently, Reb Menachem rushed over to the Rov's home as soon as he possibly could.

Upon arriving, he was greeted by Rabbi Soloveichik who, with an aura of satisfaction, told him that, thank G-d, he had succeeded in devising a way to help that unfortunate Jew. He had realized that if he were to write a letter to a certain individual, asking him to assist that fellow, he would surely not refuse him. Therefore, he explained, he had sent for Rabbi Porush so that he could dictate the letter to him immediately. Reb Menachem sat down and recorded the memo verbatim, as the Rov always insisted he do.

When the letter was completed, Rabbi Porush asked the Rov a question. First he forwarded his comments with a declaration that the Rov should feel free to call him any time of day or night that he needs him. He will always be happy to make himself available to help him in any way possible. However, just out of curiosity, he explained, he would like to understand why the Rov frightened him so by calling him at such a late hour merely to dictate a letter to him when he could not possible deliver it until after Shabbos anyway. Why couldn't it have waited until the following evening when they both would have been more at ease?

The Brisker Rov looked at Rabbi Porush; his eyes open wide in amazement. Finally, he declared, "Reb Menachem, you have just told me something novel indeed. You seem to be assuring me that I will be alive tomorrow evening and will be able to help this unfortunate fellow then. I'm sorry, but I obtain no such guarantees. Therefore, when I realize how I can help someone, I must do as much as I possibly can, as soon as I can. My father, Reb Chaim, ztvk"l, used to say that to help an individual Jew, one must even break down walls! That's why I had to call you right away and couldn't put it off until after Shabbos."

May we be privileged to properly help our brothers and sisters all around the world, and, together with them, to be granted a good New Year, complete with all of Hashem's bountiful spiritual and material blessings, Amen.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel