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Thought for the Day: Paying for the Z'chus to Perform a Mitzvah

Lets make up a wild scenario: a frum lady with three small children comes out of the grocery store and finds she has locked her keys in the car.  She can see them right there on the seat, so Baruch HaShem she knows they aren't lost!  To make it wilder, lets set the story in the deep south, make it erev shabbos, and AAA says it will be an hour before they get there (every story has to have at least one believable fact).  I know you are probably already thinking "this could never happen", but just to make the story consistently incongruent, let's say another frum man (in the south) comes to assist her.  He tells her to wait in the store with her children and not to worry, he'll take care of things; he calls his friend -- a frum locksmith!  The frum helper hands the keys to the frum lady; the frum locksmith hands a bill to the frum lady, the AAA guy says, "What's the problem?"

I hope you'll bear with me in spite of the craziness of the situation to appreciate the cool sh'eila we now have.  The AAA service is included as part of her annual fees, which are already paid; so the locksmith can't say she can give the money to him instead of AAA.  The lady didn't call the locksmith and had no idea the helper was calling him, and she didn't really get a benefit; so she doesn't want to pay.  The helper was just being nice, so he doesn't want to pay.  The locksmith just wants to get paid.  Baruch HaShem, instead of fighting and law suits, we have a Torah that guides us.  This is a juicy Choshen Mishpat sh'eila.  The answer (as reported to be by R' Yossie Fuerst) is that the helper has to pay.  The helper requested the service, so he is responsible for payment.

That may seem unfair at first glance.  After all, he was trying to do the lady a favor; why should he have to pay?  Is this a case of "no good deed goes unpunished"?  Chas v'shalom; this is a case of "l'fum tza'ara agra" -- the helper was not doing a good deed, he was doing a mitzvah!  Somehow we don't mind paying to get an aliyah, but we get irritated about paying to m'kayem the mitzvah of "v'ahata l'rei'echa k'mocha" (among others).  One of the reasons that HaShem made some many mitzvos bein adam l'chaveiro (the majority, according to Hillel) is so we can get eternal credit in the mitzvah bank.  Simply have in mind whenever you help a fellow Jew that you are ready and prepared to fulfill the mitzvah d'oraisa of "v'ahata l'rei'echa k'mocha" (among others).  That turns a mundane act of simple human kindness into divine service.

And that's the real meaning of oso ha'ish saves, Moshe invests.


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