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Parshat - Shevat Mishpatim Shekalim

Thursday, 8 February, 2018 - 4:00 pm

 “If you see your enemy’s donkey crouching under its load, [don't think] you may refrain from helping him, you shall surely help him.”  This is a positive mitzvah in our Parsha. Why your enemy’s donkey?  What about your friends. Of course it does not mean exclusively your enemy’s. In addition to the basic meaning that it applies even to your enemy, the Halacha is that if you see two people whose animals are crouching under their load, and one is your enemy, you are obligated to help the enemy first. Rambam explains that this is in order to curb our evil inclination and overcome our feelings of animosity.

Now we must clarify that the Torah is not discussing an enemy who want to destroy us or an anti-Semite. It is talking about a member of the community whom we hate. In general we are not allowed to hate a fellow Jew. There are exceptions, for example a person on the same spiritual level who has wantonly committed an egregious sin and even after being reminded and corrected several times, he continues to transgress. Under those circumstances it is ok to hate that person.

Nevertheless the Torah tells us that we must help him unload his overloaded animal, and to choose to help him over another person.  Because the hatred may not be for the person, it is for the action. If we harbor negative feelings toward another, that is something that we need to fix, because the mitzvah of Ahavat Yisrael applies to everyone without exception. One of the ways the Torah teaches us this is by requiring us to help that person. We do it because Hashem commended it, and we remember that whatever personal feelings we may have, the true essence of a person is the soul, and on that level we are all one.

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