Friday, November 25, 2011

Loving your friend more than yourself

The Rambam says in Hilchos Avel (14:1-2)

מצות עשה של דבריהם לבקר חולים ולנחם אבלים ולהוציא המת ולהכניס הכלה וללוות האורחים ... ואלו הן גמילות חסדים שבגופו שאין להם שיעור. אף על פי שכל מצות אלו מדבריהם, הרי הן בכלל ואהבת לרעך כמוך...

“It is a mitzvah mi’derabanan to visit ill people, to comfort mourners, to bury the dead, to marry off a kalah and to accompany guests. These are kindness done with the body that have no limit. Even although all of these mitzvos are mi’derabanan, they are included in the mitzvah of ve’ahavta le’reachah kamochah.”

According to the Rambam, if someone visits an ill person he is doing two mitzvos. First of all he is doing a mitzvah de’oraisah of ve’ahavta le’reachah kamochah; secondly he is doing a mitzvah mi’derabanan of bikkur cholim.

  • Why did the chachamim enact mitzvos de’rabbanan of gemillus chasadim if the same actions are already included in the mitzvah de’oraisoh of gemillus chasadim?
The passuk says in Yisro;

וְהִזְהַרְתָּה אֶתְהֶם אֶת הַחֻקִּים וְאֶת הַתּוֹרֹת וְהוֹדַעְתָּ לָהֶם אֶת הַדֶּרֶךְ יֵלְכוּ בָהּ וְאֶת הַמַּעֲשֶׂה אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשׂוּן

“And you should warn them concerning the statutes and the laws and you should make known to them the way that they should go in and the actions that they should do.”

The gemara in Bava Metziah (30b) comments on this passuk;

אמר מר "ילכו - זה ביקור חולים" היינו גמילות חסדים? לא נצרכה אלא לבן גילו דאמר מר בן גילו נוטל אחד מששים בחליו ואפילו הכי מבעי ליה למיזל לגביה. "בה - זו קבורה" היינו גמילות חסדים? לא נצרכה אלא לזקן ואינו לפי כבודו

  • “Yelchu – this refers to bikkur cholim. [The gemara asks, why is it necessary for the passuk to refer to bikkur cholim], this is included in the general mitzvah of gemillus chasadim? [The gemara explains that] the passuk comes to include an obligation to visit the ill even if the visitor is a ben gilo (born under the same mazal) as the person who is ill.
In this case the visitor takes away 1/60th of the illness by accepting the illness upon himself. You might think that seeing as the visitor will lose by visiting the ill person; he has no obligation to visit him. The passuk therefore comes to say that even in this case there is an obligation to visit the sick.

  • Bah – this refers to kevurah. [The gemara asks; why is it necessary for the Torah to hint to this?] Kevurah is included in the general obligation to do gemillus chasadim? [The gemara explains that] the passuk refers to an obligation to do kevurah even in the case of a zaken ve’eino le’phi k’vodo – even if it is not in accordance with the honour of the zaken who the obligation falls on.”
Rb Yitzchak Hutner z"l asks; Once the gemara says that kevurah is incumbent even on a zaken in a case where this is eino le’phi kevodo (not according to his honour), why did the gemara also not say that the case of visiting the sick which the passuk includes is also where it is not in accordance with the honour of the person paying the visit? (We know that in this case the halacha is that there is an obligation to do bikkur cholim as the gemara says in Nedarim that the obligation to visit the sick applies even to a greater person visiting who has to visit someone who is not their equal.)

Rabbi Hutner z”l answers as follows;

The source of the general obligation to do gemillus chasadim is the passuk of ‘ve’ahavta le’reachah kamochah’ – ‘You should love your friend as yourself.’

If the chiyuv to visit the ill and to do kevurah was only based on the mitzvah of ve’ahavta le’reachah kamochah then a ben gilo would not have to do bikkur cholim because the passuk says ve’ahavta le’reachah kamochah –you should love your friend as yourself - but not more than yourself. Seeing as the ben gilo will become ill from doing bikkur cholim he is doing something that is bad for himself but good for his friend, so it comes out that he is loving his friend more than he loves himself.

The chiyuv mi’derabanan (which is alluded to in the passuk) tells us that even in such a case there is still an obligation to do gemillus chasadim.

Once the gemara has been mechadesh that the obligation of the chiyuv de’rabbanan goes beyond the obligation of the chiyuv de’oraisoh, so that even if the person doing the chesed loses out he is still obligated to do chesed, then the gemara is also mechadesh that even in the case of zaken ve’eino le’phi kevodoh, where the zaken loses out, there is a chiyuv de’rabbanan of gemillus chasadim.  However before the gemara says that there is an obligation of a ben gilo to do bikkur cholim -  we would not have known that there is a chiyuv for a zaken to do gemillus chasadim in a case where he loses out because it is eino lephi kevodoh. This is why the gemara did not originally say that the case of bikkur cholim referred to in the passuk is a case where it is eino lephi kevodoh of the person performing the visit.

Generally we say – kol de’tikun rabannan ke’eyn de’oraisoh tikkun – everything which the chachamim instituted is similar to the miztva de’oraisoh. What is the basis for the chachamim to enact a chiyuv of gemillus chasadim which goes beyond the chiyuv of ve’ahavta le’reachah kamochah?

Rb Hutner explains that our obligation to do chesed is based on the obligation to emulate the chesed that Hashem does with us – mah hu rachum af atah rachum… - just as He is merciful so to you should be merciful.

The first gemillus chasadim that Hashem did with us was to create the world that we live in. The gemara says in Chagigah (12a) that one of the names of Hashem is Shakai because שאמר לעולמו די - Hashem said to his world ‘Enough!’ When Hashem created the world it began to expand too much. In order to make the world suitable for us to live in, Hashem limited its size. So too when we come to do gemillus chasadim, we limit the size of our world in order to be able to do gemillus chasadim to other people.

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