News From Ramaz
By Rabbi Justin Pines, MS Mashgiach Ruchani
This week in Parashat Mishpatim, we learn a lot of laws and each law could be studied in great detail.
One law we come across is described as follows (23:5):
"When you see the donkey of the one you hate, lying under all the bags it is carrying, and you might not help him, you must instead help the donkey up with him."
In other words, let's say a pretend person named Jeff hates a pretend person named Timmy, God-forbid. If Jeff sees Timmy struggling, he might think, 'haha, look at Timmy suffering, he deserves it.' But instead the Torah commands us - it's a mitzvah - for Jeff to help Timmy.
There are at least two confusing questions derived from this pasuk.
1. Do we hate people in Judaism? I was always taught that we don't hate anyone. Period. The Torah seems to assume that we will hate people.
2. And, if we do really hate someone, why should we be obligated to help them? They obviously did something very wrong for us to develop hate for them. They probably deserve to struggle. Feel the pain, Timmy!
As we've discussed in class together, we don't hate people, we hate actions. Jeff shouldn't hate Timmy. Jeff should hate that Timmy was mean to Carter at lunch yesterday.
Fine, Jeff hates Timmy's actions. But why does he have to help him? As we all know, every person is created b'Tzelem Elokim, in God's image, which means we are all of equal, infinite, and unique value. Even if Jeff hates Timmy's actions, it does not justify treating Timmy poorly. By raising Timmy up, Jeff raises himself up.
And by the way, sometimes, when we find ourselves in a fight with someone, a small act of kindness can help us to start to make peace. Showing someone we see them - we care about them - even if we absolutely hate what they did - is a way back to friendship.
So, don't hate the player, hate the actions.
And if we respond to hating someone's actions by acting the wrong way back to them, we are only adding to the negative actions. If we respond with a positive action, we may lead the way to more positive actions and more positive relationships.
Wishing everyone a Shabbat filled with shalom this week.