1) IS ONE OBLIGATED TO DO FAVORS WHICH DO NOT REQUIRE EFFORT?
OPINIONS: The Gemara teaches that if one has lost an object and his friend has lost an object, he may search for his own lost object before he searches for his friend's. Rav Yehudah learns this from the verse, "Efes Ki Lo Yiheyeh Becha Evyon" -- "There will be no destitute among you" (Devarim 15:4). From the words "Lo Yiheyeh Becha" Rebbi Yehudah derives that "Shelcha Kodem l'Shel Kol Adam" -- "yours takes precedence over that of all others." However, he concludes that one who follows this dictum as a set principle -- that is, he never puts the interest of others before his own interests -- will come to a point where he will need others. The SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 264:1) explains that if one always acts this way all the time, he is considered to have "thrown off the yoke of Chesed."
What is the degree of a person's obligation to do a Chesed for someone else when he easily can do the Chesed but is not interested in doing so? For example, may a person refuse to lend an object to someone even though he has no reason whatsoever for refusing?
(a) The ROSH (Al ha'Torah, Vayikra 19:18) writes that one does not have to lend out his things against his will. The Rosh asks a question concerning the prohibition of "Lo Sitor" -- "Do not bear a grudge" (Vayikra 19:18). The Gemara in Yoma (23a) describes the case of bearing a grudge as a case in which Shimon asks Levi to borrow his sickle, and Levi refuses. The next day, Levi asks Shimon to borrow his ax, and Shimon says, "Take it. I am not like you, who did not lend to me." The Rosh asks, why does the Torah prohibit a person (Shimon) from bearing a grudge when someone (Levi) did not lend him an item, but it does not prohibit a person (Levi) from not lending an item for no reason in the first place? The Rosh answers that the first person did not lend his sickle because he was stingy, as his sickle was dear to him, "and Hash-m does not force a person to lend his things against his will."
(b) The MOSHAV ZEKENIM (Vayikra) quotes the Rosh, but cites a second opinion. He writes that some explain that the reason why no verse commands a person to lend out his objects is that the person who does not lend is subject to an even greater punishment. The Gemara in Erchin (16a) says that one of the reasons why a person is smitten with Tzara'as is that he is stingy and does not lend out his things.
The ARUCH HA'SHULCHAN (YD 264:1) writes that if a person and his friend both lost an object, and he can retrieve his friend's lost object easily but he almost certainly cannot retrieve his own object, he may not say that he is too busy looking for his own lost object and ignore that of his friend. "Similarly, any favor that a person can do for his friend, he is obligated by Halachah to perform."
Does the Aruch ha'Shulchan argue with the Rosh and side with the second opinion in the Moshav Zekenim, or can his opinion be reconciled with that of the Rosh?
It seems that the Rosh is discussing a person who holds his object very dear to him, but there is not necessarily a logical reason for his possessiveness. This is implied by the Rosh's words that the person had "no reason" to refrain from lending his sickle, and that the person "was stingy because his sickle was very dear to him." Accordingly, if one has an expensive object that he does not lend lest the borrower break it, perhaps he does not transgress the prohibition of not doing Chesed when he refuses to lend it. However, when he refuses to lend an object simply because he does not feel like it, he transgresses the Mitzvah of doing Chesed. (See also SEFER L'RE'ACHA KAMOCHA, vol. 2, p. 130, who writes that refusing to lend out an object (such as a pen) when no effort is involved borders on "Midas Sedom" -- "the attribute of the people of Sedom.") (Y. MONTROSE)
2) AGADAH: THERE IS NOTHING GREATER THAN GEMARA, RUN TO MISHNAYOS!
QUESTION: The Gemara (33a) quotes a Beraisa which says that there is nothing greater than learning Gemara, which means analyzing the wisdom of the statements of the Tana'im. The Beraisa concludes that "forever one should run to Mishnah more than Gemara." The Gemara answers the apparent contradiction between these two statements by saying that the Berasia was taught during the times of Rebbi. RASHI (DH bi'Yemei) explains that during the time of Rebbi, the Jewish people experienced their first period of peace and prosperity in many centuries (see Avodah Zarah 10b). Finally, during his time, all the Chachamim were able to gather together freely and explain the true meaning of many of the statements of their predecessors, which Rebbi collected, edited, and redacted into the Mishnah. This new freedom to discuss the true meanings of the Mishnah enabled everyone to study Gemara.
Why, then, does the Beraisa say that one should run and study Mishnah more than Gemara?
(a) RASHI explains that there was a fear that the students would forget the Mishnayos and confuse the names of the Tana'im. For example, they might quote Rebbi Yehudah as saying that one is "Chayav" when he really said that one is "Patur." Consequently, they would find contradictions in Rebbi Yehudah's rulings, since in another, similar case he may have ruled that one is "Patur." Moreover, the Halachah is often decided in favor of a certain Tana over another Tana. For example, the Halachah always follows the view of Rebbi Yehudah over that of Rebbi Meir (see Eruvin 46b). If the stuednts would confuse the opinions, although they might know the logic behind each opinion, they will end up ruling like the wrong opinion.
(b) The MAHARSHA explains that the Beraisa is expressing the need for a person to learn Mishnayos before he reaches the age of fifteen, as stated by the Mishnah in Avos (5:26). In the time of Rebbi, everyone was very excited about the gathering of the greatest scholars who had come together to expound the Gemara (the meanings of the Mishnah). As a result, youngsters under fifteen also learned Gemara instead of Mishnah. The Maharsha explains that the Beraisa's term "run" implies that one is able to learn Chumash and Mishnah without an extremely settled mind. This is why the Beraisa urges those who "run" in their learning to run to Mishnah and not to Gemara. On the other hand, older people whose minds are more settled should learn Gemara.
The AHAVAS EISAN (in Ein Yakov) asks that the Beraisa says "forever one should run to Mishnah more than Gemara." This implies that this was advice for everyone, not just for young people under the age of fifteen.
(c) The AHAVAS EISAN explains that when a person learns Mishnayos, his Gemara learning is enhanced greatly. This is apparent from the Gemara in Sanhedrin (42a), which says that one is able to "do battle" in Torah when "he has packages of Mishnah." Similarly, the Gemara in Ta'anis (8a) says that one will find learning Gemara to be difficult if his knowledge of Mishnah is unorganized. Rebbi therefore reminded the students that they should always learn Mishnah over Gemara, as this will enhance their Gemara study greatly. (Y. MONTROSE)