Ki Tetze is another fascinating portion, one in which we see the outlines of a social order rooted in affiliation and adherence to God’s words. Now there are several verses that will raise the ire of many a Torah study students this week. There are several classic examples of ethical action and inaction that may challenge much of our modern morality. Among the verses that, to me, are of great importance are the verses from 22:1-3. The context is that if one sees someone’s ox or sheep that has gone missing, you cannot ignore it. Indeed, the charge in 22.2 is that you “shall give it back/return it to him” (v’ha’shavotah lo). Indeed, the next verse undescores this when it reminds us again that we are not allowed to ignore this charge (lo toochal l’hit’ah’leim)
Now these verses have been used as a key proof text by Maimonides to allow for the practice of medicine. If one is sick, one has lost heath and thus the interpretation goes that it is incumbent for that health to be returned by the doctor. But we can expand what has been lost in many different ways. We are living now in the midst of a moment in time where much has been lost. SO much of what we had taken for granted has been lost, from the casual and normal personal interactions, to communal gatherings to more formal types of interactions. So the question, from our portion, is how do we restore that which has been lost?
We all know the health guidelines and hopefully we follow them, for to not follow them is also a violation of Jewish ethics that holds the preservation and sanctity of human life as a high ideal. The isolation has also caused us to lose a sense of our common good. We have lost a sense of civility and respect. I think many of our generation watch in sadness the daily polarization of our society, the silo type activies that are so pervasive. How did we lose the basic sense of humanity and respect for others? The portion also speaks to the respect due to the stranger, because, as are constantly reminded, we “were strangers in Egypt”. (25:17ff). We have lost in so many ways the basic ability to speak to and with each other. We have lost a sense of commonality and shared humanity on a shared planet. Our task is to find a way to restore this to our community. To ignore these realities is to further drive wedges between us all, and in that, society and each of us becomes lost.
Rabbi Richard F Address