Often, we are asked to help someone out and we loathe to do so, because we feel that the person doesn’t really want to do the work himself – he just wants others to serve him. This situation can bring up harsh feelings in regards to the person’s lack of appreciation or sensitivity to others. We may think to ourselves, “If he won’t even help me to do the task, why should I bother to do it for him?”.
The Torah tells us, in fact, that when we see a person who has an animal that is stuck and cannot arise due to it’s heavy burden, we should help the owner get the animal up on its four legs. Chazal teach us that one is only obligated to do so in a situation in which the owner is struggling and needs help. However, if the owner sits on the side and says to you “This is YOUR mitzvah. Get the animal going while I sip on my drink here in the shade” then one is not obligated to offer any assistance at all.
I think that we are all very comfortable in understanding this concept (this is not a place of discussion if it is meritorious to help someone when the recipient of this help is unwilling to even lift a finger). With Elul upon us, we would all like to enter Rosh Hashanah motivated by feeling accomplished in our teshuva effort. In fact, many of us, when we say the brochos of “hashiveinu” and “slach lanu” in shemoneh esrei, say them with greater urgency than we do during the rest of the year. We want Hashem to help us do Teshuva.
The Chofetz Chaim tells a parable of a poor man who went to the philanthropist begging for a loan so that he should be able to start a business enabling him to support his family. The busy man said, “Come to my house at 8pm tonight and I will be happy to give you the loan.” However, the poor man was a “no show” that night, and the philanthropist felt slighted at the lack of appreciation. The next day they met again, and the poor man reiterated his plea, and the rich man controlled himself and again made an appointment to help out his fellow Jew. That night the poor person was again a “no show”. It would not take long, with such a pattern, for the philanthropist to understand that the poor man doesn’t mean business – he is just talk. Should the poor man show up after establishing such a pattern, it would be questionable if the philanthropist would give a loan to such a person.
We too, have been saying “hashiveinu” each day – asking Hashem to lead us back in the path of teshuva. How many of us throughout the day really put in an effort to “show up to get our handout” from Hashem Himself? We’ve asked, and now Hashem is willing to offer his Divine assistance to us so that we can do teshuva – If we do not make an effort, how can we expect to obtain this Divine assistance?
There is still time until Rosh Hashanah – enough time to enlist Hashem’s help. But we must take initiative now towards achieving teshuva, so that our efforts and actions be blessed with Divine Asssistance.