Parsha Ki Teitsei 5770: Kindness, Unity and Collective Responsibility

by Moshe Burt

Parsha Ki Teitsei teaches numerous Mitzvot such as; returning lost items to their rightful owners, loaning money to one’s fellow Jew free from interest, what one is permitted to or prohibited from taking from another Jew as loan security, Shatnes (wool and linen together), Tzitzit, and dealing fairly and truthfully with one’s fellow Jews in business. We also learn of Mitzvot such as sending a mother bird away before taking the young or the eggs and helping one’s fellow Jew load and unload a burden, fencing in a roof area and not harnessing together different species of animals on the same yoke.

The Maftir Aliyah of our Parsha tells us collectively to remember, for all time, the actions of Amalek who attacked B’nai Yisrael when they were weak while blotting the rememberance of Amalek from the earth.

We remember the Amelek without, but we must remember the Amalek within as well; lo nishcach v’lo Nislach — we won’t forgive and we can’t and won’t forget the lack of justice, principle and morality of Israel’s governance as exemplified by recent evictions; i.e., the expulsion, Amona, the events in Chevron — in Shalhevet neighborhood, Beit Shapira, Beit HaShalom and Federman’s farm, as well as Jonathan Pollard’s 25 years in US prison, as well as the whole Oslo litany and much more. These are all reflective of an immense rap sheet of perversion and subversion of justice amongst the leftist governing elitist establishment in Israel as well as the alleged “religious (sic) parties,” ‘who talk the talk’. They express opposition to the lack of justice, principle and morality of the governing regime, yet haven’t the nack for courage — for ‘walking the walk’. These “religious parties” continue their petty squabbling among themselves for political and financial spoils at the peril of both their own constituency and the entire Am Yisrael. These factions exhibit their own lack of justice, principle and morality thus enabling corrupt governance to “divide and conquer” thus jeopardizing the welfare of the nation, for their brethren and emboldening the israel’s enemies.

We find two posukim in our Parsha which express a concept far beyond the penalty for illicit relations with a betrothed woman;

If there shall be a virgin girl who is betrothed to a man, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall take them both to the gate of that city and pelt them with stones and they shall die; the girl because of the fact that she did not cry out in the city… (Sefer Devarim Perek 22, posukim 23-24.)

Torah Gems, by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, cites the Hidushei Ha-Rim on these posukim;

The young woman is put to death because she did not cry out when she was molested. From this we learn that if a person has the the ability to cry out against injustice and does not do so, it is as if he acquiesced to it. (Torah Gems, Volume 3, Parsha Shoftim, page 276)

The point is, just as the married or betrothed woman who can cry out against her molestation and does not — thus acquiesces to it, is it not so as well with the masses who fail to cry out, scream out and take action against those who pervert or subvert them? If WE don’t “walk the walk”, how is it then possible to compell corrupt leadership to do so?

In short, our Parsha emphasizes that the unity with which B’nai Yisrael goes out to war against her enemies evolves from collective responsibility, kindness, caring and fairness for and with each other. These attributes of being fair, straight with, and caring for another person are kinder than the insensitivity, indifference and disunity of making up any and every excuse or non-reason under the sun for an action or kindness not done. Collective unity — responsibility, kindness, caring and fairness for and with each other negates the possibility of a kindness not shown; whether the action relates to Shidduchim, to employment searching and interviews, to giving Tzeddakah, etc. or merely making the effort to hold a bus driver for another few seconds while his fellow huffs and puffs as he runs to catch the bus. This relates to each Jew individually and toward his fellow Jew.

At the same time, there is, as Rabbi Pliskin’s “Growth Through Torah” indicates, a differentiation between altruistic kindness and being taken advantage of.

Rabbi Pliskin quotes the posuk in our parsha,

“You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way, and hide himself from them; you shall surely help him to lift (them) up again.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 22, posuk 4.)

He explains that, while we are obligated to help a fellow Jew whose animal has fallen under the weight of the heavy load on his back, Torah makes a stipulation in the words “help him” which indicates “with him”. Rabbi Pliskin then notes that Rashi cites the Sages in saying that if a person needing help tells you, “I’m going to rest now. You have a mitzvah to help me, so help me all by yourself,” that you are not obligated to help him.

Rabbi Pliskin then goes on to contrast the laziness of a person which leads him to take advantage of and manipulate another person regarding the mitzvah to lend another Jew what he sincerely needs, even though the other person always refuses to help or lend his things or does not reciprocate by helping you in case of need. Rabbi Pliskin states that:

“…The highest level of kindness, chesed shel emes (kindness which is true), is when you do a kindness when you know you will receive nothing in return.”

He goes on to explain that there are other situations where people ask their brother “…to do things for them when those people could do these things themselves without too much effort.” The other person does “…the favors because they tell themselves that they would feel guilty if they refused. By internalizing a Torah perspective, a person will feel joy when helping another person who really needed help, even though the other person does not do him favors in return and expresses no gratitude.”

Torah distinguishes the mitzvah of helping one who is sincerely in need from a tendency of asking one to allow himself to become manipulated or taken advantage of by a lazy person. (Growth Through Torah, Parsha Ki Teitzei, pg. 437-438)

Shem Mishmuel writes quoting Rav Abba bar Kahana who said:

“Hashem says, ‘Do not sit and weigh the Mitzvos of the Torah… Don’t say “Since a particular mitzvah is significant, I will do it because it’s reward is great, and since another mitzvah is less significant, I won’t do it.”‘

Shem Mishmuel echos a concept often addressed on this blog, that:

“Hashem did not reveal to his creations the reward for any particular mitzvah. so they should perform each mitzvah with perfection.” (Shem Mishmuel on Parsha Ki Teitzei, pg. 409)

In previous writings, the performance of mitzvot has been equated with the weight scale in previous writings by asking; who among us mortals can know which mitzvah, even the smallest “Eikev” mitzvah, might just tip the scales, both in terms of any particular individual or on behalf of the collective national redemption of B’nai Yisrael? In short, having just entered the Elul season, “the days of awe” and the run up to the Yom HaDin, the Day of Judgement, we try honestly and objectively to look back, review and examine our actions over the past year and longer. Our lives and our hopes for a good year and good things to come hang in the balance of the Cheshbon, if you will, between our Mitzvot (good deeds) and our Aveirot (sins or violations of Divine law). Once again, as 5771 approaches, it’s “Clutch time” and as that famous coach says, “Our Mitzvot aren’t everything, they’re the Only Thing.”

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.