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Shabbat Parashat Balak 5778

Ein Ayah: Partnership between Benefit and Morality

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 6:65)

Gemara: One who lends is greater than one who gives charity, and one who puts money “in the pot” [for others to invest and share the profits] is greater than all of them.  


Ein Ayah: When contemplating the proper moral path to take, there is a feeling of discomfort, almost pain in the heart. This is due to the evil of the yetzer hara in one’s midst. For this reason, one associates morality with a heavy feeling that is the opposite of enjoyment. 

This connection between morality and sadness is very detrimental to the expansion of goodness because people naturally like to be happy and experience enjoyable things and run away from that which causes pain. Therefore, it is wise policy to find ways to make morality more palatable to man and not be in situations in which the right thing causes him damage. The more one avoids losing from doing the right thing, the greater regard we have for the steps he needs to take. It is even a better thing if the person doing the right thing gains from it. This creates complete goodness, as the recipient of the kindness will not have to worry that his benefactor is suffering anguish, physical or spiritual.

One of the great moral deeds is charity. It is best if one lends money rather than give charity. He does not lose money, as it will return to him, and this allows it to have a positive impact on the masses. If he gives money to be invested, he gains, and there will be a uniting of the pursuit of doing good and doing good for himself, making it a lofty ethical act. He will thus be able to create a moral path without pain. The benefit will connect with the charity and they will exist without pain and in a manner in which his desire to help others will be sustainable. 


Dogs – Man’s Greatest Non-Human Influencer

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 6:67)


Gemara: Whoever raises a vicious dog in his house withholds kindness from his house, as the pasuk says, “Lamas from his friend kindness” (Iyov 6:14). This is because a dog is called lamas in Greek.


Ein Ayah: Concealed ideals are apt to come through hidden causes. It is well-known that social interactions impact on a person’s spirit both for good and for bad. It is a new idea that other living things also impact a human’s behavior when they are in his proximity.  

To understand this, we must realize that even when man influences man, it is not just by means of the visible actions and words they interchange, but by a spiritual process through which someone good improves the spiritual environment around him. Likewise someone evil casts shadows of evil on those around him. This type of spiritual impact can be accomplished even by an animal, especially those with an inclination toward a relationship with mankind; the dog is unique in this regard. A dog has a lowly spirit, and a vicious dog is antithetical to kindness. Therefore, a vicious dog impacts a house spiritually, holding back the light of kindness.

This type of relationship with a dog, with its unseen impact, is unnatural to Jews. Our nation has always been hesitant to raise dogs and even put restrictions on it (see Bava Kama 79b). However, due to the level of connection between humans and dogs, which finds expression in a Jewish home as well, they can impact on a Jewish home. We should be careful about this impact, as is hinted by the fact that a foreign (Greek) name of a dog is found in the pasuk.

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