Drash on Parashat Ki Tetse
Rabbi Orna Triguboff
Emanuel Synagogue, Woollahra
New South Wales, Australia
Be kind, be caring!
That is the overriding message of this week’s Torah reading, Parasha Ki Tetse.
The examples given are from a different time and relate to agricultural issues and marital practices Judaism no longer follows, however the overarching theme is: caring for others.
If you see a straying ox, you should return it to its rightful owner; if you are a trader, have the correct weights for your scales; when you enter another’s vineyard, you may eat while you are there but should not take out produce in a vessel; keep your promises; pay wages on time etc.
In short, be considerate, be kind and share.
Another more obscure commandment states one should not plough with an ox and a donkey together. Sages explain that this is a metaphor for life, that the individual's differences must be taken into consideration when moving along on a journey. Just as the ox and donkey function in different ways, so individuals are movitated by different things and are fulfilled in unique ways.
This week’s Torah reading invites us to be mindful of how we relate to each other’s differences and the challenges we face in understanding ‘the other’. We are invited to reflect on these issues and to act on them – that is, making this a week of kindness and consideration that will hopefully inform the way we act throughout the year.
We are in the month of Elul, the month before the New Year, which works well with the themes of kindness and consideration. This is the month for reflecting on the past year, asking ourselves – have I been kind to myself? Have I been kind to others? In which situations is it easier for me to be considerate and in which situations is it challenging? How can I deal with the challenging situations better?
In all these reflections we remember that asking for help is a key concept within Judaism – asking help from friends, family, professionals, community, our own inner wisdom and God. If some situations stump you, ask others how they deal with challenging situations. We can learn so much from each other.
The kabbalistic concept of the four worlds can help us with this. The idea is that we exist on different levels and they relate to different ‘worlds’ – olamot. The world of Asiya relates to the physical world and in terms of this week’s parasha, we ask ourselves about kindness and consideration in the physical world – are we considerate of ourselves and others in terms of money issues, food and health. The World of Yetsira is the world connected to emotional wellbeing and we reflect on how caring we are of our own emotional well-being and that of others. The world of Beriah, is connected to thoughts and the intellect. On this plane we are invited to cultivate kind and considerate thoughts, directing our mind to the positive when possible. The world of Atsilut is connected to the Spirit and we think about kindness on a Spiritual level.
May this week’s reflection help us act in a kinder way and may we receive kindness from those around us, remembering that we are all different and kindness can come to us in many forms.