merciful consideration

Written by  rebbetzin malkah

art-boxwritingRav Yisrael Salanter was a leading 19th century sage who founded the Mussar movement which was dedicated to the study and renewal of Torah teachings and halachot regarding ethical behavior and character development. One early morning, a disciple of Rav Yisrael passed through a room full of sleeping people in order to get water for the ritual washing of his hands. Rav Yisrael later rebuked him, saying: “Washing the hands when you wake up is a mitzvah instituted by our sages, but robbing others of their sleep is forbidden by the Torah!” Rav Yisrael was reminding his disciple that the Torah's prohibition, “You shall not rob” (Leviticus 19:13), includes a prohibition against “robbing” someone of his sleep.

The disciple needed to realize that his action was mistaken for two reasons: It was wrong to violate this prohibition in order to wash his hands; moreover, the mitzvah to wash one’s hands upon awakening is a rabbinic mitzvah, while robbing others of their sleep is a Torah prohibition and therefore takes priority.  --taken from “Sparks of Mussar” by Rabbi Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik

Sometimes, people hold it in their mind that when they are doing a mitzvah for Hashem, nothing else in the world matters.  People, things, animals can all just deal with the intrusion while they serve their Creator.  However, it is clear that Rav Salanter felt that this was clearly untrue.  He wanted us to have compassion on those around us, even those who are sleeping, in the midst of performing a mitzvah.  He was acutely aware of human needs and always challenging the halachic observance of those around him. While he was a stickler for tradition and halachah, he would never do something if it jeopardized someone else. He was striving for sensitivity in the realm of human to human interactions in order to elevate our human to Creator actions.  To Rav Salanter, one could truly negate the other if not only the intention was incorrect, but the means of getting there. 

May we strive to emulate this righteous example of considering those around us as we serve our Creator.  In doing so, we are honoring Hashem and bringing to the world an example of merciful consideration in all that we do.

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