The Mitzvah Thief
What does one do after a hurricane leaves his home without power for six days, ruining all the food, and making it impossible to clean the house? You have really special guests for Shabbat!
We had two of our best friends in the world as guests this Shabbat and the small stuff didn’t matter. It was Shabbat and that was enough to connect and allow us to focus on the important parts of life. It was a life nurturing visit until…
I found out that they are Mitzvah thieves!
Yes; such a concept exists in Halacha. They stole my Mitzvah. They stripped their beds before they left, depriving me of part of my Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim: Bringing guests into the home. Every detail is part of the Mitzvah, even cleaning up after they leave. But did they care? No! Such good friends and yet they didn’t leave anything for me to clean up after they left!
I’m considering taking them to Bet Din – Jewish Court – to collect my pieces of silver. I can claim that I never strip my bed after visiting them. I always ask, “Shall I strip the bed?” I always leave a huge mess behind in my unbelievable commitment to help them have a bigger Mitzvah cleaning up after me. Do they show the same sensitivity to me? …the same concern for my Mitzvah?
Debbie, righteous woman she is, argues their case: They saw that my back was hurting and didn’t want me to bend. They have too much respect for me as their rebbi to allow me to strip their beds? Poor arguments: I insist on washing the linen for company and preparing the beds because Debbie takes care of everything else and I want my part of the Mitzvah.
Debbie argues right back: “You are focusing on how you want to personalize the Mitzvah! That is Chassidut; not the Mitzvah itself! They don’t have to pay you for stealing your Chassidut!”
Well, with all due respect, the Chafetz Chaim disagrees with Debbie! A guest was embarrassed when the great Tzaddik wanted to make his bed, and said, “Please allow me to make the bed.” He had the same concerns of respect for a rebbi and concern for the sage’s old age. The Chafetz Chaim responded, “Do you want to put on Tefillin for me too? This is MY mitzvah, and I must do it!”
Debbie is concerned that, by taking them to Bet Din, I will be sending them a message that I am using their visit as an opportunity for a Mitzvah rather than caring for them as the beloved friends they are.
Perhaps. However, friends allow each other to maximize their growth and Mitzvah opportunities. Surely they enjoy the fact that I treasure the time I spend with them because God is even more present when they visit.
They can breathe a sigh of relief. I will not take them to Bet Din; my back hurts too much from doing the laundry, which Debbie believes is a sign that I was not focused on the Mitzvah while doing the laundry.
“Gazalnu,” “We have stolen,” is included in the Vidui, the Confession. It includes being a Mitzvah thief. I don’t want my friends to feel guilty. I want them to so treasure the Mitzvah they afford me when they visit that they will be careful to stop stealing the slightest part of my Mitzvah. They can turn their “sin” into a learning opportunity. That will be a superb Vidui.
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