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Shabbat Parashat Korach 5772

Ein Ayah: The Importance and Limitations of Independence

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:64)

Gemara: Someone who gets sick – the first day he should not reveal that he is sick, so that his mazal not become bad. Afterward, he should reveal to others.


Ein Ayah: One of the special attributes of the human spirit is the tendency for one to want to help himself alone rather than have someone else help him. Every healthy soul recognizes some lowly feeling from “bread of embarrassment” (the idea that man was brought into the world so that he would not have to be embarrassed that the spiritual pleasure he receives from Hashem is not earned). However, this character trait was embedded in man so that he should use it in the correct measure, namely, that a person should try to strengthen himself on his own without leaning on others, whether in physical or in spiritual matters. In that way, he will always be ready to add on to his completeness in all matters.

In the situation where one is sick, a person’s nature is to be depressed and think that he is unable to survive on his own, unless someone assists him by giving him strength and by praying for him. (The idea of someone else praying for him is based on the concept that “a captive cannot extricate himself from his captivity” (Berachot 5b).) Despite this feeling, it is important that the good characteristic, of avoiding others’ help, should have enough impact so that he at least does not seek help at the first sign of weakness.  Rather he should use his self-pride to push himself to avoid needing help from other humans and strengthen his resolve to trust only in Hashem in his time of torment.

A tendency of over-ease in looking for help, whether in physical or spiritual matters, including asking for someone else to pray for him or receiving internal relief by sharing his experience of pain, can be dangerous. It can bring weakness and failure because it weakens a person’s pride in his preparedness to strengthen his resolve, which is critical for his physical and spiritual welfare.

Therefore, on the first sign of illness, one should not tell others, in order to not make his mazal bad [which Rav Kook apparently understood as referring to his personality makeup.]  Afterwards, though, he should tell others. That is because a trait like self-reliance has to be used in moderation – in order to strengthen resolve and prepare himself for maximizing his opportunities. However, when the problem ends up being a major one, then he is in a situation for which man’s living within a society was created – so that one can help another. If a person stubbornly refuses help over time, then it is not a proper attribute but a sign of haughtiness, which brings disappointment rather than success. That is why after the first day, he should tell others and accept their physical and spiritual help.

When one asks and receives help in the proper way, it causes an emotional connection between different members of the social group. This is because the good feeling that a good person receives when he is able to show kindness and empathy to another creates feelings of love between people. This positive development is as strong as the negative one of a person asking for help too easily, thus unnecessarily placing a burden on others and creating bad feelings. Rather one should treat each situation in life in the proper measured manner befitting a person of integrity.

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Hemdat Yamim

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