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Thought for the Day: Helping the Sinner Repent/Bringing Back the Beis HaMikdash

Rashi explains the difference between a חכם and a נבון.  (Google, by the way, translates both as intelligent, but adds wise for חכם and sagacious/discerning נבון.)  Rashi says that חכם is like a wealthy שולחני/money changer; bring him money and he can change it for you, and he is also content to wait for business.  A נבון on the other hand, is like a שולחני תגר/money dealer; if no one is bringing him business, he's out drumming it up.  The difference was really brought home to me yesterday while walking with my six year old grandson.  He stopped short and asked (really out of the blue): "Wait!  Our cousins cousins are... us?!?"  I was a bit startled, but managed to confirm his conclusion.  We were walking to look at some new houses being build (big machines and big holes in the ground are irresistible to boys of all ages), but apparently he had been thinking about his cousins who are planning to come for a visit and just had that insight.  That's a נבון; his mind never stops.

If you have been a parent, though, you know that a kid whose mind is racing all the time is not always the easiest to manage.  While he jumped to a very smart insight in this case, he can also get just as involved in thinking about how to get that gizzy from the whatsit that he is supposed to leave be.  Not only, that, but it can be challenging to get his mind off that gizzy on the whatsit once his thought train has latched its tractor beams on it.  That is part of growing up and his parents (and grandparents) want nothing but to lovingly help him be able to focus his prowess where it will do him the most good.  Including not transgressing the bounds of the Torah, society, and his parents.  Of course it is a challenge, but it is also a marvel for all of us to see.

I bring this up today, on Rosh Chodesh Av; aka the beginning of The Nine Days (ominous music).  We have the Three Weeks and the Nine Days and Tisha b'Av for one reason -- שנאת חינם.  That is usually translated as "baseless hatred", but that's a mistake; we always have a reason for our hatred.  Let us also note that "hatred" in this case means even the feeling of wanting to avoid saying hello to a fellow Jew because you're ... well.. irritated.  שנאת חינם really means not caring enough about a fellow Jew to do everything in your power to make things right.

How far does that go?  To help a robber repent, Chazal instituted תקנת השבים -- ordinances to ease the path to returning the stolen property.  Besides the outline I wrote there, there are even times when you would have to pay the robber to get your property returned!  For example, he steals your car and upgrades the stereo sounds system.  Since he invested money in improving your property -- albeit with the intent of keeping it for himself -- you will have to reimburse him for that expense (and you should probably say "thank you", as well).  Yes, he did a bad thing by stealing your car.  Yes, he made the improvements for himself.  Yes, he now wants to repent from his crime and make thing right between himself and you and himself and HaShem.  Yes, you are obligated to spend money to help him do that.

In other words, the Torah commandment of ואהבת לרעך כמוך/love your fellow as yourself, applies as much to the robber as it does to your grandson.  That's the really putting your money where you mouth is and the cure for שנאת חינם.


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