Ethics

For the week ending 26 June 2010 / 13 Tammuz 5770

Who Comes First

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Question: I am aware that it is my duty to save another person from suffering any loss. If by so doing I myself will suffer a loss, am I still obligated to put his interest first? What is the right thing to do?

Answer: On the basis of a passage in the Torah indicating that one should avoid inflicting poverty on himself, our Sages ruled that if one has the ability of either retrieving an object which he has lost or one lost by another, his own takes precedence.

This would seem to free you of any obligation to suffer a loss in order to save another from loss. Nevertheless, our Sages cautioned a person to avoid using this privilege unless there is a serious loss to you at stake. If one should always stick to the letter of the law he is in danger of becoming totally selfish and may end up being punished with dependence on others.

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