• Rabbi Rubanowitz

Ki-Tetzei - Guest Tish talkBased on the talks of rabbi yochanan zweig, Shlit”aProvided by the Talmud

You shall not see the ox of your brother or his lamb go astray, and hide yourself from them, you shall surely return them to your brother…so you shall do for any lost article of your brother that you have found, you cannot hide yourself. You shall not see the donkey of your brother or his ox falling on the road whilst you hide from them, you shall surely raise it with him (22:1, 3, 4). In this week’s parsha, we find laws relating to the obligation of returning lost objects and helping fellow Jews with animals that are struggling under a heavy burden. Clearly, the Torah is teaching us how much care and concern we must have, not only for our fellow Jews, but for their property as well. Yet the Torah communicates these laws to us in an unusual manner; in both the case of returning a lost object and helping a struggling animal, the Torah states that you shall not hide from this obligation. Rashi (22:1) explains that hiding refers to “concealing the eye, as if he doesn’t see it.” This means that there is a prohibition against ignoring your friends lost object or the fact that his animal is struggling under a heavy burden. Yet the Torah uses an odd way to teach us this prohibition: Instead of focusing on the requirement of the situation, the Torah focuses on one’s act of pretending he doesn’t see the situation. Surely, the Torah could have simply said, “you cannot ignore the needs of your friend.” Why does the Torah teach us this prohibition in such a poetic manner as “you cannot hide yourself”? The Gemara (Yevamos 79a) quotes Dovid Hamelech as saying that the Jewish people have three distinguishing character traits: They are 1) compassionate 2) bashful and 3) do acts of kindness. In fact, Rava says, that anyone who has those three identifying marks, you will know is from the children of Avraham Avinu. In other words, these character traits are part of the spiritual DNA of the Jewish people. We have such an instinct for chessed that the only way we could ignore the plight of our fellow Jew is by pretending not to see it. For this reason, the Torah phrases the prohibition as “you shall not hide.” The Torah is telling us that we must be true to ourselves, and not construct a false sense of reality, though it may be more convenient. This message is relevant in all aspects of our lives, whether it be professional or personal, and particularly as we enter a period of self-reflection in preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. After all, the first step in effecting positive change within ourselves is to identify behaviors that need improvement. Here, the Torah is teaching us that we must stop deluding ourselves (“you shall not hide”) in order to justify what we want to do (ignoring someone else’s misfortune). Only when we are honest with ourselves can we truly have an honest relationship with the Almighty. With blessings for a Shabbos on which our truest self is revealed!Shabbat Shalom!