Re'eh 5777 – To be selfish and selfless
"He who prays for another to find salvation, and the one praying suffers from the same deficiency, his need is resolved (by G-d) first" [Talmud. Bava Kama 92a paraphrased].
That compelling statement by the Talmud is supported by scripture. One should always look to first help others, even as one is naturally focused inwardly.
Humans are incredibly selfish. I guess, we need to be, otherwise we wouldn't make any effort to survive.
Judaism, however, expands our horizons. Since we are irreplaceable (we are), when we work towards the goal of staying alive and well, then we can claim victory. But, if we cannot open up to others - and think about ways to help them - then it is a pyrrhic and hollow triumph.
This week's Torah reading should be familiar, as extensive parts of it are read on the various festivals dotted throughout our Jewish calendar. Towards the end of the Sidrah [16:14] is the divine command to rejoice and be happy on Yom Tov. The Rabbis introduced the requirement to eat meat and drink a measure of wine, which would enable the individual to feel content, pleased and happy.
Sounds easy enough. Except that the Torah has more to say about being happy. In that same verse, it mentions that this joy should be shared with one's wife, children, domestic staff - - - and the orphan, the widow and the stranger.
In other words, when you fulfil the Mitzvah which comes more naturally (good food and company) do not neglect the part which is a bit more tiresome and uncomfortable (being surrounded with the less fortunate in society).
There are eight categories of individuals mentioned in that verse. Four are the 'desirables' - who live and belong in the home. The other four are 'outsiders'. Rashi puts it best: G-d effectively says, make my four happy, and I will ensure that your four are happy, too. What a promise! Make room in your life for others, and G-d will find room in His heart for you!
RABBI MENDEL LEW