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Do I need to help?

Thursday, 20 June, 2013 - 3:47 pm


Dear Rabbi Kushi,

How far do I need to go to help other people? There is someone I know who needs help! She needs advice and other assistance. I try to help but sometimes I think I am going too far. To what extreme do I need to go to prevent her from doing the wrong thing?

Looking forward to a quick response, 



Dear Debby,

Your family is your primary responsibility, then your community, then everyone else. However, if you are able to, you should do whatever you can to help another person. As a Rabbi, I am continually asked to help people. Sometimes I have to say no but – if I am able to help – I do.

Interestingly enough, in this week’s Torah portion, Balaam, a gentile prophet, was hired to curse the Jews. G-d saw that he was going on a destructive path and took three actions to prevent his downfall. G-d's three pronged approach may be  applicable in your situation.

G-d began by sending an angel to block Balaam's path, but only the donkey that he rode saw it. – It didn’t work. Balaam kept hitting the donkey in an effort to move him forward.

G-d continued by having the donkey speak to Balaam. That too didn’t work.

Finally G-d allowed Balaam to see the angel himself. The message was that he could go, but he would only be allowed to speak the words that G-d would tell him to say.  The result was that G-d allowed  only blessings to emit from his mouth.  

G-d begins by using natural and conventional methods. He sent a messenger (the angel). When that didn’t work, G-d strengthened the message by doing  a miracle (the donkey who could speak). When that did not change Balaam's direction, G-d went even beyond what he had done until then (allowed a human to see an angel).

When helping our fellow man we can’t give up. We can't stand by and watch them do what is destructive to themselves or to others. We need to try to help by whatever means we that can. We need to make every effort. We need to do what it takes to accomplish the mission.

Hope this helps, 

See you on Shabbat.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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