There is an expression in English “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” The point of this saying is that Civil Law defines what is right and what is wrong. There seems to be no reason to justify giving something back when you don’t have to.
Yet in this week’s parsha, the Torah tells us: וְעָשִׂיתָ הַיָּשָׁר וְהַטּוֹב (דברים ו:יח) (do what is fair and good…).
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains that the Torah demands more from us. The word “yashar” means “what is right in our minds” and “tov” means doing what Hashem would ultimately want.” To explain this concept of doing “tov” let us use an example of a field owner, Reuven who wants to sell his field to Shimon. However, Reuven’s field shares a common border with his neighbor Levi, who would very much like to acquire this field so that he could easily expand his production. Though the field belongs to Reuven, “tov” (the ultimate good) demands that Reuven put aside his “yashar” idea of selling his field to Shimon and instead sell it to Levi, as the Torah requires.
This “tov” idea is actually much more demanding than just redirecting a sale. Imagine a situation in which Reuven defaulted on the repayment of a loan from Shimon, and Shimon then took Reuven’s field in lieu of cash. Sometime later Reuven comes up with the cash that he owed. Halacha gives Reuven the right to demand that his field be returned to him.
Some may find this hard to understand, as Shimon took Reuven’s field with his consent. The idea of “finders keepers…” should come into play, and yet, the Torah demands that Shimon return Reuven’s field—and to do so with a smile!
How are we supposed to envisage this kind of idea into our everyday lives? I think that the formula is as follows: Look for the greater good, and remove yourself from the equation.
I think every parent has lived through an example like this: The eldest child has just completed his “mivtzah” and earned something from the parent. Maybe a new soccer ball. But this is the second soccer ball for the eldest child, and the next child complains that he doesn’t have any soccer ball, and could really use it at recess at school. So the parent asks the eldest child to give the ball to his sibling, to which the child asks “Why should I give it up? I earned it! It is mine!” To this, the parent—who is removed from the equation and can see both sides of the picture from an unbiased standpoint—can respond “Because your sibling needs it and you don’t.”
I would just like to extend this idea. Sometimes, a person is asked to give tzedakah or his time to help someone else, and on the tip of his tongue is “Let him take care of his own problems, and let me have that which Hashem has given to me.” Keep in mind that your aba in shamayim is looking down and saying “It is not enough to do the yashar. You must also do the tov.”