What Would You Do for Yourself?
Question: Someone who prays in the same synagogue with me left his tefillin home one day in his rush to come to the Shacharit service on time. He approached someone with a request to lend him tefillin when he completed his shmone esrei so he would be able to catch his regular ride and save the time and expense of taking several buses to his place of work or hailing an expensive cab. This neighbor hesitated to do so because he was accustomed to keeping his tefillin on until the very end of the service in accordance with the most preferred practice. What is the right thing to do?
Answer: This very question came before Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, Rabbi of the Ramat Elchanan community in Bnei Brak. His response was based on something that the Chofetz Chaim wrote in his Mishna Berura about a person engaging in only as much work as he needs for his basic subsistence so that the major part of his time can be devoted to Torah study. In order that his evil inclination should not delude him into how much he needs for his subsistence, he writes, let him imagine a situation in which he assumed responsibility for supporting someone else and then consider what he estimates a basic level of subsistence.
Applying this to the above situation, Rabbi Zilberstein asked the reluctant tefillin wearer what he would do for himself if keeping his tefillin on until the end of the service would mean that he would be late for work and be forced to take a cab. Whatever he would have done for himself in such a case is what is incumbent on him in regard to the other fellow.
This is the meaning of “Love your neighbor like yourself”.