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Monday, 6 July 2015

Helping addicts that have hurt you

Daf Yomi Nedarim 43


The free loan society was in a quandary.  They had before them an application for a loan from Graham, the former shul treasurer.  Graham had previously embezzled thousands of dollars from the community to support his gambling addiction.  Should they grant him the loan?  Obviously he was still mishandling his finances.  Why should they support someone who was in the pits through no fault of anyone but himself?

If one vowed to abstain from deriving benefit from his friend, but then had nothing to eat, the friend may go to the shopkeeper and say, ‘So-and-so has vowed abstinence from me and I don’t know what to do.’  The shopkeeper then takes the hint and gives food to the one who made the vow and then takes payment from the other fellow.   Similarly, if he lacked the means to have his house rebuilt, or his fence repaired, or his field reaped, the fellow may go to labourers and say, ‘So-and-so vowed abstinence from me and I don’t know what to do.’  They should take the hint and do the work and then collect payment from that fellow. 

Sometimes people make bad decisions in life.  They find themselves in terrible situations and they have nobody to blame but themselves.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help them.

On their way down the spiral, they may have even hurt you in the process.  The message of the Talmud is that you must help no matter what.  The easiest solution to the Talmud’s problem would be for the one who vowed abstinence to simply have his vow annulled.  But, despite having nothing to eat, he stubbornly refuses to admit his mistake.  The fellow he vowed to have nothing to do with could hardly be faulted for walking away from the problem.  After all, he was the object of the vower’s contempt!  Instead, he goes and finds creative ways to help the vower out of his self-made mess!

You may have suffered at the hands of someone in your life who made bad judgments.  Maybe she has a gambling problem.  Maybe he has a drinking problem.  And you think, ‘Why should I help them, after the way I’ve been treated?  And they continue to be stubborn and refuse help!’  The lesson of the Talmud is that you must find creative ways to continue to help this person who is stuck in a rut.  If you turn your back on them, who knows what might happen to them?  You might not be able to help them directly – sometimes that is just too painful – so find a third party to be the intermediary to assist them.


Sometimes the people we love make terrible choices in life.  And we are tempted to turn our backs on them, especially given all the hurt they’ve caused us.  May you merit the strength to be there to assist them through the most difficult times, whether or not they appreciate everything you are doing for them!