Thoughts for Parshat Mishpatim – 5776

When one observes a fellow in need of help, there is a natural tendency to offer assistance.  If, however, one dislikes the person in need, our desire to help them lessens significantly. We find in our Parsha that the verse states, “When you see the donkey of your enemy collapsing under a heavy burden, you must surely help with [your enemy].”

The clearest reason for this is that the Torah teaches us to rise above our base nature.

The Talmud tells us (Bava Metzia, 32b) an additional lesson that we learn from this mitzvah. Suppose someone finds himself in front of two such overburdened donkeys, one belonging to a friend and one to an enemy. Helping the enemy’s donkey takes precedence. This is definitely not what we would naturally wish to do; we would normally want to help our friend first. The Talmud answers that overcoming our negative inclinations is the highest priority.

It seems to me that there is an important reason that we are taught to physically help an antagonist. We have a commandment in the Torah not to hate our fellow man.  However, at times, things can happen that breed bad blood. Once these feelings of anger and hatred are aroused, it is very hard to remove them with thought alone.  We often need a good deed to uproot this negativity.

“An action is worth a thousand words.”  Many people say that we are what we think, the Torah is coming to teach us a deeper lesson in self understanding – we can change who we are through our [good] deeds!

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Ron