Serenity Shabbat_Ki Titzeh
Parashat Ki Tezeh is one of the richest Torah portions in the entire Torah, counting 74 out of 613 commandments.
A huge variety of laws is described in this portion, from rules of war to “Shiluach Haken” which is the Mitzvah that commands us to send away the bird before taking any of the eggs or young birds from the nest.
Among these 74 Mitzvot there is one that I’d like to explore with you, due to its particular importance in the context of serenity Shabbat.
I am talking about the Mitzvah of “Hashavat Aveda” returning lost objects.
In Deuteronomy Chapter 22 we read:
1 You shall not see your brother’s ox or sheep straying, and ignore them. [Rather,] you shall return them to your brother.
א לֹֽא־תִרְאֶה֩ אֶת־שׁ֨וֹר אָחִ֜יךָ א֤וֹ אֶת־שֵׂיוֹ֙ נִדָּחִ֔ים וְהִתְעַלַּמְתָּ֖ מֵהֶ֑ם הָשֵׁ֥ב תְּשִׁיבֵ֖ם לְאָחִֽיךָ:
2 But if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him, you shall bring it into your house, and it shall be with you until your brother seeks it out, whereupon you shall return it to him.
ב וְאִם־לֹ֨א קָר֥וֹב אָחִ֛יךָ אֵלֶ֖יךָ וְלֹ֣א יְדַעְתּ֑וֹ וַֽאֲסַפְתּוֹ֙ אֶל־תּ֣וֹךְ בֵּיתֶ֔ךָ וְהָיָ֣ה עִמְּךָ֗ עַ֣ד דְּר֤שׁ אָחִ֨יךָ֙ אֹת֔וֹ וַֽהֲשֵֽׁבֹת֖וֹ לֽוֹ:
Rashi the medieval commentator explains that Torah says
והתעלמת – You shalt not Ignore it, one shall not close his eyes as though he does not see…
The Talmud also remarks in Bava Kamma 81b:14 the issue of ignoring it:
Why was it necessary to stipulate that one may find his way out of the Mitzvah in this manner, like closing one’s eyes? After all, It is a positive Mitzvah to return lost items to their owner; why on top of a positive commandment should we be reminded not to ignore that commandment?
The Torah apparently assumes that even though it is a law to take responsibility for that that we recognize as lost, we are likely to close our eyes…
It seems that despite having clear instructions from Torah, things “out of their place” make us feel very uncomfortable, maybe because they challenge our own space.
And then the rabbis in the Talmud take it to a completely different level.
The Torah teaches that one must return lost property to its rightful owner. In fact, this applies even when the lost item is a person who has lost himself. The verse states: “And you shall restore it [vahashevato] to him [lo]” (Deuteronomy 22:2), which can also be read as: And you shall restore him [vehashevato] to him, i.e., saving his body.
The Talmud clearly states that when somebody loses himself our obligation is to recognize this person, to help, to protect, to hold until he finds his way back and can return, or in other words until this person is ready to do “Teshuva”. Hashavat Aveda, the mitzvah that we are learning about, and Teshuva – come from the same root in Hebrew; So, we are called to be partners, to be Angels in the Teshuva process of those that are lost and in need of finding their way back.
But Teshuva has an additional layer tonight which will move us from the personal level to the community one.
Serenity Shabbat was born out of the understanding that those dealing with addictions, for many years didn’t hear a clear statement or find the Jewish Community as a place that was willing to hold them, to be there when they were lost. As our Torah portion explains, sometimes when we feel challenged, and even though our moral obligation commands us differently, we tend to look in the opposite direction. As Rashi said we may close our eyes in order to avoid facing what reality is placing in front of us. We tend to forget that any of us can find himself lost….
Initiated by thoughtful Jews that took upon themselves the mission of raising the level of supportive engagement in our community, Serenity Shabbat is today in my opinion a symbol of our Teshuva as a community and also the clear expression of our willingness to say:
We are here!
We will pray with you and for you.
We want to support you and accompany you….
You are one of us , You are not alone!
We need to work in order to bring our communities to become a part of the solution, a shelter of support and love, instead of an additional challenge that people dealing with addictions need to face.
During this time of the year, just a few weeks before the HHD’s, in which we are so focused on thinking about our journeys and on rectifying our ways we repeat the words of our Torah portion: לא תוכל להתעלם
You can’t ignore it! Let us work to trade the devastating impact of indifference for the healing power of our loving presence, of opening our eyes widely, looking at each other and saying: “Hineni” I am here for you.
And you can repeat after me, Hineni!