Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Ki Teitzei - 5775

My friends,

In this Parasha Moses emphasizes the importance of kindness - "Hessed". Kindness to your neighbors and friends, to the strangers, to the animals and even to your enemies.

Many Mitzvot in this Parasha call on us to treat people humanely, especially those who are most vulnerable - the widow, the orphan, the stranger and the poor. If a fellow being borrowed from you and is unable to pay, the Torah forbids the lender from going into the poor man's house to take a collateral, or recover the item:

"Stand outside and let the poor person bring you the collateral." (Deuteronomy 24:11)

We are commanded to show compassion to the stranger, even the Ammonite and the Egyptian. These were our enemies at one time. The reasons given for being kind to them are because "you were once a slave" and because "I the L-rd command you to so". G-d, the source of kindness and compassion, tells us to be like Him, and all humans were created in the image of G-d"

"If you see your fellow's ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it, you must take it back to your fellow." (Deuteronomy 22:1)

"If you see your fellow's donkey or ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it: you must help him raise it." (Deuteronomy 22:4)

The Talmud devotes an entire chapter in Baba Metzia to the laws of returning a lost object to it's proper owner.

If that is true of materialistic items, how much more so when it comes to returning one's heritage after it had been lost for generations.

These past two weeks at Sharei Chesed, we witnessed, in a real sense, the return of a lost heritage to its proper owner. We had two B'not Mitzvah of girls to parents from the Former Soviet Union. Both parents as well as the grandparents, in their messages to the girls, emphasized that this was the first Bat Mitzvah ceremony in their family, going back at least three generations. They explained how lucky and fortunate they felt to witness this unique event in their life - a practice that had been denied to them for many generations.

Hashavat Aveidah - returning a lost object - is a great Mitzvah. We were all inspired by bringing back our lost brothers and sisters to our traditions. This heritage has always been theirs. It is just that they lost it when they were not in a position to seek it. As teachers and as a congregation we were delighted and happy to share our heritage with our brothers and sisters and to fulfill the Mitzvah of Hashavat Aveidah.

Shabbat Shalom,