We have been overwhelmed by the images from Houston and other Gulf communities in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. So much has been lost, including lives, in the flooding. There is so much that cannot be replaced, but we’ve also been inspired by the sights of volunteers all across the country packing trucks with supplies to contribute to the relief effort.
This week’s Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, contains more mitzvot than any other parashah. Included among the more than 70 commandments is mitzvat hashavat avedah, the obligation to return lost objects. There’s an entire chapter in the Talmud that deals with the specifics of this commandment, and it’s a very practical subject that’s fun and easy to teach to kids. But the underpinnings of the mitzvah are crucial to the maintenance of a healthy society.
In the words of Sefer HaHinukh, a medieval survey of the 613 mitzvot: “This commandment is beneficial to all, for everyone experiences loss; people’s animals are constantly fleeing this way and that. With this commandment that our People have, animals and other items, wherever they are in our Holy Land, are virtually in the possession of their owners.”
What does this mean for a society? And how do we factor in those things that are lost forever? What can a collective entity do to address the despair that comes with losing something precious? We’ll discuss this painfully relevant topic on Shabbat morning.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,