Select your language

לימוד תורה

You can't ignore it

Parsha and Its Implementation – Ki Tetzeh - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5779

The Mitzvah of Hashabat Abeida (return a lost item) which appears in our Parasha, is one of the most familiar and learned mitzvot from an early age. But expanding the learning from the Rishonim and Achronim will teach that it encompasses many more areas than it may initially appear. Some will be current in the coming week, a week of fateful choices, precisely for those who come in the name of Judaism and Torah. Must take responsibility for damage that may happen to others, the individual and the public, as a result of the wrong choice. And the prohibition of "ignoring" things that we need to care about and leave our comfort zones. We must learn from it that we should relate to the complexity of realities and the value tensions it creates, and should not try to ignore or present in a one-dimensional form of “all or nothing”.

On the side of the obligation:

הָשֵׁ֥ב תְּשִׁיבֵ֖ם לְאָחִֽיךָ׃

"you must take it back to your fellow". (Devarim 22: 1).

The Torah forbids ignoring the loss, in "negative commandments":

לֹֽא־תִרְאֶה֩ אֶת־שׁ֨וֹר אָחִ֜יךָ א֤וֹ אֶת־שֵׂיוֹ֙ נִדָּחִ֔ים וְהִתְעַלַּמְתָּ֖ מֵהֶ֑ם

“If you see your fellow’s ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it” (Devarim 22: 1 and Rashi). לֹ֥א תוּכַ֖ל לְהִתְעַלֵּֽם׃ “you must not remain indifferent” (pasuk 3).

This way, the Torah seeks to deal with the human tendency to ignore the obligation to recuperate the loss, either because of lack of caring and awareness of what might be caused due to indifference and ignoring the harm done to others, or because of the unwillingness to bother and return it.

The importance of the Mitzvah Hashabat Abeida is by embodying the mutual guarantee and the obligation to prevent loss and damage to our fellow human beings. Especially where he cannot preserve his property on his own and only others can help him:

וכל זה מדרכי החסד והרחמים, ללמד שכלנו עם אחד ראוים שיהיה לנו אב אחד ושירצה כל אחד בתועלת חברו ושיחמול על ממונו, ובין שתהיה האבדה בעל חי בין שלא תהיה בעל חי

השב תשיבם לאחיך, “be sure to restore them to your brother.” The Torah commands that we be very cautious to observe the commandment to restore lost property to its owners. Concerning the repetition of the words השב תשיבם, “be sure to restore,” our sages in Baba Metzia 30 explain that one has to keep doing this even 100 times if necessary. All of this is part of the paths of mercy and kindness which we are to practice vis-a-vis each other seeing we are all the sons of one father. As such each one of us is vitally interested in what is useful for his fellow. We express our pity for lost property of our brother in practical terms by restoring it to him whenever possible. It matters not whether our brother has lost inert possessions or livestock such as his ox or donkey. Any kind of lost property is included in the Torah’s directive to restore it to the loser. This wording refers to minor utensils worth less than a garment, livestock, etc., which we have found and which can be identified by the loser. The positive commandment is followed by the negative one not to try and escape this obligation by turning a blind eye and not picking up the lost object for oneself either". (Rabbeinu Bahya Ibid).

Our Sages learned that this command imposes an obligation to take responsibility for all types of damages to others not only property damage.

And the fact that it's written “you must not remain indifferent" should not be understood only as a lost recovery. There is more to the commandment to restore lost property than merely the act of restoring it. If a person is in a position to perform a useful service for his fellow and to thereby protect his fellow against financial loss, this is all part of the commandment under discussion here.

All of this is part of the “umbrella” commandment in Vayikra 19:18: “love what is your fellow’s as if it were your own!” (Rabbeinu Bahya Ibid).

Under this rule, our Sages included "losing another person" - the duty of saving others from a physical injury:

“When one is lost, whoever can assist in helping him find his way must do so by Torah law, as it is taught in a baraita: There is a mitzva to return lost items to their owner. From where is it derived that the requirement applies even to returning his body, i.e., helping a lost person find his way? The verse states: “And you shall restore it to him” (Devarim 22:2), which can also be translated as: And you shall restore himself to him”. (Bava Kamma 81b) and taking care of that person’s health (Ramban), and "losing one's soul" - a spiritual danger, preventing him to transgress.

One’s duty to help others who "lost their way" and "got confused" in the field (Bava Kamma ibid), and even prevent loss of his legal rights in the tribunal.

And more. And if the loss of one individual obligates us to bring him back as part of the general public, then more so, the individual must save the public from a general loss – from a physical and spiritual future danger.

Contact Form

Please type your full name.
Invalid email address.
Invalid Input
Invalid Input
Invalid Input