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Friday, August 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Seitzei

In this week's parsha we are warned (24:17) not to pervert justice for the stranger or orphan and not to take a garment as collateral from a widow. Following that, we are again instructed to leave behind the sheaves that are forgotten during the harvest and to leave olives and grapes behind for the stranger, the orphan and the widow. Both are followed by a reminder that we were slaves in Mitzrayim and that is why HaShem has commanded us such. However, in the first instance we are not only reminded that we were slaves. We are also reminded that HaShem took us out from Mitzrayim whereas there is no such mention in the second instance.

There is a fundamental difference between the first set of commandments and the second. The second set concern an indirect relationship with the stranger, orphan or widow. You are to leave these sheaves, olives or grapes behind so that they may come and gather them. You are not instructed to give them these gifts directly but rather, to leave them so that they may pick them up on their own at a time of their choosing. The first set, however, focuses on direct dealings with these individuals. In these cases, we are commanded to remember not only our slavery in Mitzrayim but also the compassion with which HaShem brought us out. We are required to exhibit this Godly attribute and show similar compassion in our dealings with them. In the second set of laws, where we are not given the opportunity to meet the beneficiaries of our charity, we are expected only to put ourselves in their position by remembering our poor state in Mitzrayim, thus impressing upon us how much this gift is appreciated by them.

There is perhaps an even more intriguing nuance in these commandments. Following both groups of commandments, we are told, "that is why I command you to do this." In both instances HaShem is seemingly referring to more than one commandment. Therefore, it would appear more appropriate to refer to hadevarim haeileh, these things. Furthermore, each of the commandments is a prohibitive one, instructing us what not to do. It would therefore have been more appropriate to say, "that is why I command you not to do these things." Rather, each and every one of these commandments focuses on one central theme - showing care and empathy towards those less fortunate than us. It is easy to get caught up in the fine details of these individual mitzvos. But with this pasuk, HaShem is telling us that there is one goal behind it all and this is what HaShem wants from us. The various mitzvos are the avenues prescribed to express this. But what HaShem is really demanding of us is the careful kindness and compassion that lie behind these practices.
Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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