We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chuyos for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.
Last week’s stretch of the week was: Decide to pray or do something in the merit of a sick person.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #52
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LIFNEI IVER LO SITAIN MICHSHOL
DO NOT PLACE A STUMBLING BLOCK BEFORE THE BLIND
PART 1 - Causing Another To Sin
The literal meaning of “Lifnei Iver Lo Sitain Michshol” is, “Do not place a stumbling block before the blind”. In addition to the plain meaning of the words, this passuk teaches us that we may not do anything to cause another person to sin. It is even forbidden to make it easier for him to sin. The prohibition applies not only to causing a Jew to transgress but even to do something that would enable a non-Jew to violate one of the seven mitzvos in which he is obligated.
Classic examples involve giving a nazir a cup of wine or giving aiver min hachai to a non-Jew, if they would not otherwise have access to these things. In these examples, we are not forcing the person to sin, but making the opportunity available. Although the primary issur of Lifnei Iver applies only when the offender would not be able to violate the issur without our help, we are still forbidden to help him even in a case where he can violate the issur on his own. We derive this from the mitzva of “Do not follow after the multitude to do evil” (Shemos 23:#3), which the Sha’arei Teshuva explains to mean that we may not assist a sinner in any way.
The issur would apply to any action that is likely to lead another person to transgress. In fact, we should not even hand a potential sinner something that belongs to him, if we have reason to believe he will use it for a sinful purpose. For example, we should not hand a Jew a bag of non-kosher food--even though it is his property--if we know he will eat from it. Additionally, if we see someone doing a prohibited act, such as tending a garden on Shabbos, we are not allowed to wish him success in his endeavor, even if we are doing so simply as an expended gesture of politeness.
Children should be trained in this mitzva from a young age. It is important to instill in them-mainly by example-a feeling of genuine caring for other Jews. As they grow up, that concern for others will expand to include a hope for their spiritual success. As a result, they will do whatever they can to help others grow in their Yiddishkeit, and certainly will not take actions that might cause someone to sin.
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
I sat with my children, parents and sister on the coach bus; my kids were getting antsy from the long wait. We had left the amusement park a good half an hour before the deadline for our bus, out of my father’s fear that we might get stuck on an overly long line and arrive late, making others wait.
It was Chol Hamoed Pesach, and as usual, Great Adventure was open to the Jewish world courtesy of NCSY. My family was staying at a hotel in the mountains that year for Pesach, and since they had a bus going there, my family had decided that it would be a great trip for all of us to take together. We packed up for our hours-long bus trip and then later headed into the park.
By the time we had been there for an hour, I knew we had a problem. “Why people think they can cut the lines, I don’t know,” my father said as a family with five kids ducked under the ropes and joined an hour-long roller coaster line at the last minute where one lone teenager had been saving their place while the rest of the family enjoyed themselves elsewhere. “This place is a pig sty!” my mother kept saying as she walked through potato chip wrappers, empty water bottles and lollipop sticks. “They do have garbage cans here.”
The last straw was sitting on that bus waiting for everyone from the hotel to board for the ride back, and waiting almost half an hour past departure time for one family who eventually arrived with a smiley, “Oops! Lost track of time! So sorry” and then breezed into their seats without another word. My parents and my sisters exploded.
“I figured there must have been an emergency! How can you make people wait?! It’s not right!” my father began, and it went from there. My parents and I have different paths in Judaism; I moved to the right over the years and married into that approach. My sister went the opposite way, toward almost no observance. But she and my parents were united in their extended diatribe against “those supposedly extra-religious people” who spent the day trampling on other people in order to do what they wanted, without a second thought.
After fruitlessly attempting to defend the type of “ultra-religious” people I spend every day with by judging favorably and explaining that everyone makes mistakes, I tried a different tack. “Even if they are wrong,” I began, “why is it okay to speak about them this way?” Their answer? Because they brought it on themselves.
Clearly, I knew that a person’s acting negatively does not allow us to speak negatively about him without a constructive purpose, and even then, very carefully and not publicly. But I also knew that my parents were partly right. Because enough groups of clearly and outwardly marked religious Jews acted without consideration in the amusement park, they brought others to speak negatively about them as people and their religion as a whole.
Obviously, we have to be good people because we have to be good people, but since we live in a world of divisiveness, a negative behavior by one group of Jews, particularly behavior relating to actions between man and his fellow man, trips onlookers up to fall. It is too easy for an unaffiliated Jew to see a man in a kippa cut them off across a solid line on the highway and say, “I guess the religion isn’t worth all that much if they can act like that.” Any time we act in a publicly inconsiderate way, or harm someone without a sincere apology and explanation, we are setting up a stumbling block for people to speak and feel negatively about their own nation and to denigrate us and what we stand for. When you hurt someone, it can be a direct cause of that person hurting you, and your people, back.
Discussion Question Options:
To what extent are we responsible for what people say about us?
In what other ways do we set up stumbling blocks related to differences between Jews?
What are some ways to minimize problematic speech and actions from others as a result of our own actions?
Stretch of the Week:
Stop yourself from doing something inconsiderate or hurtful that can cause negativity.