Mishpatim: Misprints

Missing the point.

Rabbi S. Weiss,

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7

It must be a misprint!

Every yeshiva bachur knows what to do when confronted with a seemingly unanswerable question on the text
The text is accurate - it's the student who hasn't gotten it right.
before him. He claims there must be a ta'ut sofer - a misprint. But more often than not, it turns out that the text is accurate - it's the student who hasn't gotten it right.

Yet, in our sedra there is one mitzvah that does seem to contain a misprint. The Torah tells us (23:5) that if we come upon a person struggling with his burden - even someone we regard as an "enemy" - then we must assist him in carrying his load. The command of azov ta'azov imo is translated as, "You shall surely help him."

But hold on. The word azov would seem to mean just the opposite - "to leave him alone". Just look at what Adam is told when Woman is first created (Breishit 2:24): "So a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife;" the word "leave" is ya'azov, from the same root as azov. So why do we translate it here as "to help", or "assist"?

At first glance, it might indeed appear that the Torah meant to write the word not with a vav, but with a raysh - azor ta'azor - "you shall surely help." Since a vav and a raysh are very, very similar in appearance, we could conclude that the letters must have somehow gotten mixed up.

But Rabbi Zweig of Miami doesn't think there's any misprint at work here; he has a beautiful answer and approach. He says that the highest form of helping someone is to get them to the point where we can leave them alone because they are now independent and no longer in need of our assistance. So the goal of helping another person is ultimately to leave them to their own efforts; thus restoring their self-respect, along with the ability to financially survive. That is why the highest form of tzedaka is helping an indigent person to find gainful employment.

Azov and azor neatly coalesce.

In fact, the very example we brought, of a young man "leaving the nest," is precisely about achieving
We as a nation want just one thing - to be left alone.
independence; we help a couple most when we let them make their own way and create their own unique home.

The implications of this masterful message are many. It reminds us that our first responsibility towards those in need is to enable them to stand on their own two financial feet. Able-bodied men, the Torah is saying, should be working, not begging. Like drugs or crime, living off others when you can support yourself is a bad habit that impacts negatively on society and one's own sense of self.

Moreover, we as a nation want just one thing - to be left alone. If the world really wants to help us, then they will stop interfering in our ability to conduct our own affairs, stop telling us what to do. If they think they are helping us with all their "fatherly" prodding and pushing, all their pleading and pressure, then maybe they, indeed, are the ones with a misprint.