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Al shlosha d’varim ha-olam omed.  “On three things the world stands…” 

08/17/2021 10:09:10 PM

Aug17

Ken Davidson

Our Torah portion for this week, Ki Teitzei, contains 74 commandments, more than any other parashah. These commandments in this parashah deal with a variety of subjects including family, treatment of animals, and business ethics, concluding with the commandment to remember Amalek’s killing of the old, weak, and infirm during the Israelites’ travels in the desert. The specific subjects of these commandments are diverse, but a common theme can be garnered from the lines which create for us the obligation to return lost property and the responsibility to help others in need.

Many of us are familiar with the teaching from Pirkei Avot, ““The world stands on three things: Torah, service, and acts of loving kindness.” In Ki Teitzei, we learn that “acts of loving kindness” extend to all living things including neighbors, strangers, enemies, animals, and those in need. In Deuteronomy 22:4 we read, “You shall not see your brother’s donkey, or his ox fallen down by the way, and hide yourself from them…You shall surely lift them up with him.” When someone is in a bad situation, not only can we not look the other way, but we are instructed to take action to help.

In Judaism, this responsibility does not just apply to the individual, but also to nations. Again and again, we see evidence of our commitment to this responsibility in Israel’s response to disasters all over the world. Only a few days ago, it was reported that Israeli humanitarian aid organizations, smartAID and IsraAID, are sending help in the wake of a catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti. Even after years of rocket attacks and bombings, Israel continues to respond to humanitarian crises and is frequently one of the first countries to send aid to those in need. As Jews, we can be proud of the way in which Israel continually fulfils this Torah-based obligation to help others in need.

In this month of Elul and in these last weeks before Rosh HaShanah, our tradition instructs us to prepare ourselves for the prayers, celebrations, and rituals of the High Holy Days. We engage in the process of heshbon hanefesh, an introspective look at ourselves and our lives. It is a time to ask ourselves the tough questions and to evaluate and examine who we are and who we have been during this past year. Did we live up to the Torah’s expectation that we be kind and compassionate? Did we help others with their burdens? Could we have done more? This is also a month of opportunity to look forward at the year in front of us, charting a course to become the person that Judaism expects us to be.

L’shanah tovah. My wife Susan joins me in wishing you a new year filled with happiness and joy.

Ken

Sat, December 4 2021 30 Kislev 5782