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Helping the Highway Helpless

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 23/5/2020

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Fascinating InsightsThe Sefer (in English)

Helping the Highway Helpless

R Ovadia Yosef[1] was asked if one sees a car that broke down on the highway and the driver of the car is standing on the shoulder of the road helplessly if there an obligation for other experienced drivers on the road to pull over and to assist the stranded driver in any way possible by repairing the car or offering him helpful advice?

 

The Rambam[2] writes that if one encounters his fellow on the road and sees his fellows animal collapsing under the weight of what it is carrying, it is a positive Torah commandment for one to unload the packages from upon it. One shouldnt, however, merely unload the animals burden and leave its owner distraught (since the owner will only be able to reload the packages on the animal alone by exerting tremendous effort), but rather one should help the owner to reload the packages onto the animal. This is indeed a separate Mitzva. The reason for the Mitzvos of unloading and reloading is to help out another Jew in his time of distress as opposed to seeing him distraught and merely walking away. There is no difference between an animal belonging to a Jew or a Jews car that breaks down in the middle of the roadespecially since sometimes, such situations can even lead to danger. It is therefore a Mitzva and obligation for any experienced driver or mechanic who sees a Jew stranded on the shoulder of the road with his broken-down car to pull over and help him by repairing the car or in any other way. The Aruch Hashulchan[3] rules likewise with regards to a horse and buggy that if one of the wheels break, anyone who sees the wagon driver in this situation must help him in any way possible until he is up and running again. Therefore, concerning our question, if one sees a broken-down car on the side of the road, it is a Mitzva and obligation to come to the aid of the driver and passengers of the vehicle as much as possible. This certainly constitutes the Mitzva of performing Chessed.

Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R Mordechai Friedlander Ztzl for close to five years. He received Semicha from R Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.


[1] Yechaveh Daas 5:6.

[2] Hilchos Rotzeach UShmiras Hanefesh, 13:1. We know of the Shabsai Frankel editions of the Rambam which has helped tremendously with the learning of the Rambam. R Shabsai Frankel (1909-2000) was a successful philanthropist and publisher of Torah books. His father, R Yosef Frankel, was a prominent Gerrer Chassid in Poland whose son Alexander married a granddaughter of the Gerrer Rebbe, the Imrei Emes. R Shabsai married the daughter of R Yosef Nechemya Kornitzer, a great-grandson of the Chassam Sofer and the Chief Rabbinical Justice in Krakow. During World War 2, R Shabsai fled Poland for Vilna and then he eventually immigrated to The United States. In America, R Shabsai joined with the likes of R Reuven Grozovsky in helping save European Jews from the Holocaust. In 1970, after succeeding in business, R Shabsai moved to Eretz Yisrael to fulfill his lifelong dream: He wished to publish a new, corrected edition of the Rambams Mishna Torah. R Shabsai established a Kollelwhich he funded from his own moneyof select Talmudic scholars who would actually put together the new print of the Rambams works as well as a comprehensive index of various other rabbinical commentaries and citations who dealt with Rambams rulings. The first volume was printed in 1973 and the last was finished in 2007.

[3] Choshen Mishpat 272:8. 

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