Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
There are times where we must do distasteful things. The overall good or needs of the moment may override certain moral or ethical sensitivities. What should be your mindset so the experience is less corrupting?
Mei HaShiloach (Lech Lecha 7) darshens our Gemara to elaborate on this theme. Avraham finds himself in a position where he was victorious in the war to win back his nephew, Lot. He is offered the spoils yet declines to take them because (Bereishis 14:23):
אִם־מִחוּט֙ וְעַ֣ד שְׂרֽוֹךְ־נַ֔עַל וְאִם־אֶקַּ֖ח מִכׇּל־אֲשֶׁר־לָ֑ךְ וְלֹ֣א תֹאמַ֔ר אֲנִ֖י הֶעֱשַׁ֥רְתִּי אֶת־אַבְרָֽם׃
I will not take so much as a thread or a sandal strap of what is yours; you shall not say, ‘It is I who made Abram rich.’
Yet, Avraham does take money from Pharaoh and Avimelech. What’s the difference?
Mei Hashiloach explains that whoever you must do something that has a mixture of good and evil potentialities, you should decline any benefit so your motivations will be pure. Lot was a mixed bag with great descendants (Ruth, Dovid) but also Amon and Moav. Therefore, Avraham had to be careful in not taking any benefit so his motivations were pure, unlike the situation regarding reparations from Pharaoh and Avimelech.
There is a hint to this idea from our Gemara: “Metzias Isha, Leba’alah”. The Gemara rules that since the husband is responsible for her support (among other reasons, see Tosafos) whatever his wife might find belongs to him. Homiletically, Mei Hashiloach says that the woman represents the deed or action which is based on intuition instead of the letter of the law. Thus, whatever findings come from this feminine archetype of intuition which may be antinomial, must be returned to the “husband”, that is Hashem. The deed must be done completely lishmah, with no ulterior motive or gain.
Translations Courtesy of Sefaria, (except when, sometimes, I disagree with the translation .)