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: Politely veer someone away from an aveira, and if possible, provide an alternative.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #54
ולפני עור לא תתן מכשל
LIFNEI IVER LO SITAIN MICHSHOL
DO NOT PLACE A STUMBLING BLOCK BEFORE THE BLIND
PART 3 - Giving Advice
Another aspect of the issur of lifnei iver is the prohibition to give someone bad advice. Whether we are giving bad advice for our own personal profit or for some other reason, and whether the issue is relevant to the advisor or not, offering advice that will be detrimental to another person is a violation of lifnei iver. It is subject to the curse stated at Har Gerizim (Devarim 27:18): “Cursed is the one who leads a blind man astray.”
Therefore, it is very important for a salesman to resist the temptation to persuade a customer to but something that would not be for his benefit. “Oh, but I only meant it for his own good,” one might insist. That might be the case; no human can know what another person’s intentions really were. Therefore, the pasuk that presents the issur of lifnei iver concludes “v’ya’raysa may’E’lo’kecha”-fear HaShem; He knows exactly what is going on in your heart.
According to some opinions, the “positive side of the coin” is also part of this mitzva: not only should we refrain from giving bad advice, but we are obligated to give good advice to someone who seeks our counsel. Preferably, we should give serious thought before replying and should offer substantial, practical ideas, not just offhand suggestions.
Sometimes, the definition of “good advice” is not so black-and-white. For example, if by giving the asker the advice that is best for him, you yourself would suffer a loss, then ideally, you should discuss this problem with the one consulting you. If that is not possible, you may abstain and not give him any advice at all, following the principle in interpersonal matters that “Your life takes precedence.”
Sometimes, giving Reuven good advice will harm Shimon. In such a case, you should not volunteer unsolicited advice, since you have no legitimate reason to prefer the good of one person over another. However, if one of the two is a close relative or friend whose loss or gain is felt by you as if it were your own, then you should offer him good advice even if it will be at another’s expense. You may also do this if someone requests your advice specifically, even if he is a stranger.
We should never advise another Jew to transgress, nor should we advise someone to engage in tricky or deceitful actions, even if no real issur is involved. If we sense that the asker has evil intentions, then not only should we not give him good advice, but it would be a mitzva to deceive him so he cannot complete his plans.
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
It looked like my son Chaim would get to go to a regular Jewish day camp this year instead of the summer program at his non-sectarian special needs school. I had spoken to the head of a new camp that had recently popped up and seemed perfect for Chaim, and explained that I wanted to send my son with a shadow. After some discussion of what Chaim’s needs were and how the shadow would work, the director was a bit nervous because he had never dealt with a child with a shadow before, but he tentatively agreed to take Chaim.
A week later, a mother of another frum boy in Chaim’s school called me for advice on where to send her child for camp. Shira asked about a couple of specific camp programs, and I told her what I knew based on my experiences and those of others I know. I even gave her some pointers on getting and using shadows. But I was nervous, because I knew the next question.
“Where are you sending Chaim? Would it be good for my Aharon?” she asked.
The camp I found for Chaim would probably also be a good match for Shira’s son, but I was worried that if she too called the new director, he would be overwhelmed by the possibility of accepting two special needs children into such a new camp when he had so little experience in that realm. Would Shira’s call jeopardize my tentative agreement with the camp about Chaim’s summer plans?
I pushed through my fears. Not only might I not have the right to withhold information, but I also didn’t want to take away an opportunity from her. I didn’t know if it would work out badly for me. What if they were both accepted and it was great for both of them? It was HaShem’s decision which way it would go-I could only determine my own actions.
Shira had asked me two direct questions, so I answered them. I told her where Chaim was going, and about my conversation with the director. I also explained that while the camp took one child with a shadow, they might not take a second one. She told me that she might call, but she would try a different camp first.
I never found out if Shira called the camp, but I was contacted within a couple of weeks to let me know that in the end, they did not have space for Chaim. That was HaShem’s plan. Whether it was Shira’s call or a miscommunication among staff members about numbers, either way, I had given her the advice she needed at the time, which was my job. The camp director had made decisions for his camp, which was his job. HaShem would take care of my child.
Discussion Question Options:
In what every-day situations might we give advice to another for our own best interest, not his or hers?
How can we check ourselves to make sure we are giving advice for the right reasons?
In what situations might it be best to say nothing? How can we do this practically?
Stretch of the Week:
Before giving a piece of advice, think about your motives.