From the Rabbi’s Study…August 21, 2021/12 Elul 5781
Torah: Ki Teitzei (Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19) Haftarah:(Isaiah 54:1-10)
The Torah continues with laws pertaining to marriage and family relationships, miscellaneous ritual laws, agricultural laws, and moral and humane laws.
This Shabbat Torah portion discusses the restoration of lost property. Deuteronomy 22:1-3 asserts that one must return a stray ox or donkey. The law has been widened to include other lost articles that require restoration to their owners. When one finds money on the street, usually there is nobody around and you pick it up. However, if someone is standing in front of you at the counter of a store to pay and drops a large bill, you must give it to that individual. You can not claim it as lost. One more; if you are at a stadium and find a $20.00 bill, you may be unable to find the person. Don’t call out that “I found a $20.00 bill” because everyone would say it is theirs. Jewelry should be turned into the police, and after a certain amount of time no one claims they lost this jewelry; then the item is yours.
The Torah provides all of us with guidelines of how people should behave. Ba’ar ba’ali chaim/ kindness to animals, the biblical law was very concerned about the treatment of animals. Deuteronomy 22:10 forbids the yoke of a donkey with an ox. These two animals differ greatly in size and strength, and it would be cruel to yoke the weaker donkey with the stronger ox. In addition, Deuteronomy 22:6-7 states that if one chances upon a bird with its eggs, one shall not take the mother along with its young. Here the ground of sympathy is the sacredness of the parental relationship. The mother bird is sacred because she is a mother, but she is sent away, and does not see her young ones taken, she does not feel as much pain. Interestingly, to the Torah the reward for not taking a female bird with its young is that of length of days. *chickens are removed when collecting their eggs. Also, one should feed their animals before the person eats( feeds for your dog, cat and other livestock). It would be cruel for the animals to watch and wait for their food.
If the Torah has such regard for compassion for animals, imagine how much more one should respect and care for human life. Today, we see how moral and humane laws appear to be lacking with disregard for life. The way individuals treat each with vile words and horrific actions.
This is the Jewish month of Elul, which has the commandment that the shofar/(ram horn) is to be blown every morning service except for Shabbat. It is the Jewish month before Tishrei when the Yamim Nora’im (High Holy Days) happen. G-d is giving us time to wake up. One reflects on their inner self. Did I do a mitzvah each day? Did I say a prayer to G-d each day? Did I do righteous actions to help people or repair the world?
Most of us pray everyday without realizing. When we see how dry it is and say quietly to the Lord to help give us rain. When you thank Him for the rain. When you travel and arrive at the destination one usually would silently say happy to be here safely. The Lord hears many of your prayers, your prayers when in synagogue, however the inner ones come from your heart He hears them, too.
Today, we are witnessing the events in Afghanistan. Many of our people are in danger and many of the Afghans that helped us for the last 20 years are also in peril. Our Thoughts and Our Prayers are needed for their health and their safety. It is difficult to watch and maybe one feels helpless, however by praying one focuses on others in need which will cause the darkness to turn to Bright Light!
Rabbi Helene Ainbinder