Talmidav Shel Aharon
2-5768: Mitzvah 71
October 15, 2007
Mitzvah 71 – It is a positive commandment to load with one’s fellow man, to set a burden on a domestic animal or on the person.
Hafetz Hayim: As Scripture says, “you shall surely help him lift them up.” (Deut. 22:4). If one left him and went his own way without helping him, he disobeyed a positive commandment. However, an elder for whom it is beneath his dignity is free of the duty. If, though, had it been his own he would have unloaded and loaded the burden, he is duty bound likewise with the burden of his fellow man. If he wishes to go beyond the strict letter of the law, he may unload or load it even if it is not in accord with his dignity; and may blessing come upon him.
If a person faced both the religious duty of unloading and the duty of loading, unloading takes priority because of the pain of the living creature. However, if the one needing his burden loaded was a person whom he disliked, and the other was a friend, it is a religious duty to help the disliked person first, so as to discipline his inclination. The disliked person mentioned here means someone whom he saw, when alone, committing a sing, whereupon he warned him but the other did not turn back. It is then a religious duty to hate him. Nevertheless he is to load and unload with him; for the other might delay on account of his items of monetary value and thus come into some danger. And it is proper to save him, since he does not believe I the main principles of our faith.
Loading is to be done specifically if the other pays him a fee for it; but for nothing there is no obligation to do loading. It applies everywhere and in every time for both men and women.
This Mitzvah is the flip side of the one from last week. There are two Mitzvot, one to help unload an animal that has fallen under its burden. That burden then needs to be reloaded, either in a different way so the animal can carry it, or onto another animal that may not have as much to carry or on the back of the owner.
Unloading always has priority since it also involves saving an animal from pain and suffering. Loading, however, is more about caring for our fellow human beings. Just like last week, an elder who does not want to sully his dignity does not have to help load the animal of another, but if he is traveling with aides, he can instruct them to help. If he also travels with animals and, from time to time has to reload them, then he must help others in need by the side of the road. If he has not reason to stop and stops anyway, this is acting above the letter of the law and such a man will be praised. People who are stuck on the side of the road are in grave danger of falling prey to robbers and vandals of all kind. To help them get back on their way is, in many cases, participating in saving a life.
There is also a special part of this Mitzvah that involves helping an enemy before a friend. Other sages note that when you stop to help an enemy load his animal, he may think that he has not judged you correctly and it is possible that the two of you may end the hard feelings between you. I have to pause here to comment on the Hafetz Hayim and his definition of an “enemy”. The definition he gives is one who sins in spite of being warned that such an action is prohibited. A person who spitefully sins is not the kind of person someone who loves G-d wants to be near. I am not sure that I would say that such a person should be “hated”. Many Sages insist that those who sin today are not acting out of spite for the law, rather they just don’t know any better. I also assume that this could be the only person the law would allow you to hate. Anger is permitted for a day or two, but we have a big Mitzvah to forgive those who offend us so that we do not hate them for long.
I am not sure what the rule is on being paid. I admit that this seems strange to me. I can only guess that since there were people who were paid to help load an animal that the owner of the load could try and bypass paying such people by doing it himself and when it fall apart anyway, expecting those who he meets on the road to retie the load for free. Thus if he is on the road, he still needs to pay those who help him load up the animal again.