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Parashat Ki Teitzei - 5776

Dear friends,

This week's portion continues Moses' address to his people before they enter the Promised Land and before he dies.

This Parasha is loaded with all kind of Mitzvot - 74 to be exact. That's a lot for one Parasha. It seems like Moses knows that he does not have much time left and he wants to be sure to tell them all the Mitzvot that would make them a caring and united community.

It begins with the laws of war, how to treat the captives and not to gloat because of your victory. Your enemies are also created by G-d, and should be treated with kindness and compassion.

There is a very interesting Mitzvah - so much so that an entire tractate of the Talmud is devoted to it: the Mitzvah of returning a lost object to its rightful owner. It does not matter if the lost object belongs to a Jew, a non-Jew, a friend or an enemy. You must do all you can to publicize the lost item and return it to the owner.

The example cited in the Torah is a lost animal. If you see a lost animal, you cannot pretend that you did not see it - you must take it into your property and care for it until you find the owner. Just think about the work and inconvenience that finding such an animal can entail. Feeding it, keeping it healthy and safe until it is claimed. It would be easy to pretend that you did not see it, but the Torah says you cannot. This law applies to any item.

In the Talmud, the rabbis describe the kind of care you must give to the item. If it's a coat, you have to air it regularly. If it's a book, you have to open it occasionally so it does not develop mildew. The finder can only keep it if it is determined that the owner has given up on finding it and therefore does not want it anymore. Otherwise, using the item in any way is like stealing.

I believe that this Mitzvah can have great meaning to us. If our responsibility is so serious when it comes to material things, how much more so when it comes to spiritual things. When youngsters or adults have lost their identity, their Jewish heritage, what a great Mitzvah it is to help them return to their sources. We as parents, teachers and friends can reach out to those who are lost and bring them back so that they can appreciate what they may not even know they have lost. That's a great Mitzvah!

Shabbat Shalom,