Shabbat Parashat Kee Teytseh August 25, 2023 – 8 Elul 5783

A Tidbit of Torah – Parshat Kee Teytzeh 5783

If you see your fellow’s ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it; you must take it back to your fellow.  If your fellow does not live near you or you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home and it shall remain with you until your fellow claims it; then you shall give it back to him.  You shall do the same with his ass; you shall do the same with his garment; and so too shall you do with anything that your fellow loses and you find: you must not remain indifferent.  If you see your fellow’s ass or ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it; you must help him raise it.
D’varim / Deuteronomy 22:1- 4

What emerges from this glimpse into the agrarian society, which characterized ancient Israel, is the Torah’s assertion of each and every individual’s obligation to respond to the situations which present themselves and act on behalf of others in the community. While it can be averred that the Torah’s concern is with the well-being of the animal in question which should not be allowed to suffer, the inclusion in the passage of inanimate objects requires acknowledgement that the Torah is articulating an obligation to others in the society including the protection of their property.

Our teacher, the Tiferet Shlomo(1), reading these verses through the prism of Hasidic thought, draws several lessons. First, he expands on the Torah’s dictum asserting that we should not avert our attention from the physical needs of fellow Jews; that we may not simply look the other way, waiting or hoping that someone else will step up. The Tiferet Shlomo continues saying that once having taken notice we cannot avoid the task at hand regardless of the degree of difficulty. Rooting himself in the text of the Torah he notes that at times fulfilling the mitzvah at hand requires minimal or short term effort while at times meeting our covenantal obligation may require a lengthier, ongoing effort before we are able to restore what a fellow Jew has lost.

Perhaps the Tiferet Shlomo’s most intriguing, and essentially Hasidic thought, is that the degree to which we take up the difficult tasks with which we are confronted is also the measure of our own uplift; that the process of benefiting others in our community and society elevates us at the same time. In a more contemporary idiom, the teaching of the Tiferet Shlomo challenges us to not look the other way at societal problems or feel that our responses are limited or inadequate and thus avoid engaging the problem. As the closing words of the passage suggest we must act along with others to raise up the society as a whole, to help those who are struggling along the way carry their burdens safely home and restore that which is essential to the heart of our society.

Shabbat Shalom –

Rabbi David M. Eligberg

1 Shlomo Hakohen Rabinowicz (@1801 – 16 March 1866) was one of the great Hasidic masters of 19th century Poland. He settled in Radomsk after being offered the position of Rav in that community and would become the first Rebbe of the Radomsk Hasisdic dynasty. He is known as the Tiferet Shlomo after the title of his posthumously published two-volume commentary to the Torah, which is considered a classic in Hasidic literature.