Section:  Avodah   Category: Ahavas Yisroel
Satmar Rebbe - I Am A Person, Not Your Mitzva
Once when the Satmar Rebbe was leaving the hospital after an illness, a very pushy person insisted on helping get his coat on.  The Satmar Rebbe told him that he doesn't need his help, although he really did.  When asked for an explanation he said that this person does not want to help an old weak Jew, rather he wants the Mitzva of Bikur Cholim, and I am not a Cheifetz Shel Mitzva.

I was reminded this story this morning when driving with my neighbor, who I happened to find at the bus stop.  He thanked me for stopping for him and I told him he'd probably be better off on the bus since the car's air conditioner wasn't working.  He told me better to travel with a good heart than a good air conditioner.  I (only half) jokingly disagreed.

This led to a discussion about the prevailing attitudes of people towards the mitzva of Chesed and Bein Adam L'Chaveiro in general.  Is it done first from the perspective of serving Hashem and fulfilling His commandment by being nice to the next person just like if I eat matza, or do I have an over abundance of Ahavas Yisroel and I want to make people happy as well as my creator, which are one and the same?

When I got to the Bais Medrash it took me a while to get our conversation out of my head and start learning, but when I finally opened the gemara I got a real treat.  The gemara (Gittin 6b) says that there are three things a person must say in his house on Erev Shabbos.  Was the Ma'aser separated, was the Eiruv set, and light the candles.  Rabba bar bar Channa says that you must say it nicely so that people will listen.  Rav Ashi says I never heard that Rabba bar bar Channa said this, but I always said it nicely anyway because it seemed logical.  

The Maharsha asks, didn't Rabba bar bar Channa also do it for the same logical reason?  What was Rav Ashi trying to say?  He answers that Rabba bar bar Channa was concerned that if he did not talk nicely, the members of his household would be scared of him, and even if they didn't take care of these three things they would lie about it rather than incur his wrath.  Then he would eat food that was forbidden, carry in places where he shouldn't, and the candles would be lit after Shkia.  Rav Ashi came and said that he didn't think of all these problematic ramifications, but he spoke nicely because it is logical that is the way you are supposed to talk people, even without all the calculations about which issurim you will be oveir.

There is a very line between the two and if Chesed is done right than these two essentially become one and the same, it is just a question of the starting point.  However done wrong or only getting it half right will leave you being thrown out by the Satmar Rebbe and any other person you try to earn your Olam Haba through.  In fact you may be in for a shock when your accommodations upstairs are in a completely different neighborhood than you anticipated.  On the other hand being nice without knowing that it is the Tzivui Hashem also leaves you far short of where you could be by keeping this in mind.

Everybody can use a little extra help.  If people are declining your assistance too often or they take you up on it but don't seem all that grateful, and you are wondering why the world does not appreciate or think that you are the Ba'al Chesed you believe yourself to be, then take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror.  Maybe then you will see what others see with a quick glance.