23 August 2018

Ignoring Opportunities to Help Hurts Us

13 Elul 5778
Erev Shabbat Kodesh
Parashat Ki Teitzei

The parashah (Devarim 22:1-4) admonishes us...
You shall not see your brother's ox or sheep straying, and ignore them. [Rather,] you shall return them to your brother. 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. So shall you do with his donkey, and so shall you do with his garment, and so shall you do with any lost article of your brother which he has lost and you have found. You shall not ignore [it]You shall not see your brother's donkey or his ox fallen [under its load] on the road, and ignore them. [Rather,] you shall pick up [the load] with him.
At first glance, one might think the Torah is foremost concerned here with the plight of the one who has lost a possession or who needs help on the road. But, the triple emphasis on "you shall not ignore...." says to me that its main concern is our tendency to be indifferent towards a problem that is not "ours."

As we discussed in the lead-up to the Pride Parade, when we are confronted by certain situations, it's just not allowed to remain silent or to look away and pretend we didn't see it. Granted the needs can seem so overwhelming that it paralyzes us into inaction. We begin to rationalize why it's ok for us to ignore the problem, but the Torah teaches us that this is simply not an option. 

You'll also note that the examples given requires a bit of self-sacrifice on the part of the one who finds his brother's lost item or sees his brother struggling with a load. And that's why the person is sorely tempted to pretend he didn't see what was happening.
Rashiand ignore them: [i.e.,] by covering one’s eyes, pretending not to see it.
What if it wasn't a stray animal or lost garment we were talking about, but children? What if our brother's child was in danger? Could anyone justify ignoring that? Would any of us even want to? But if we read about it and then do nothing to stop it, aren't we doing exactly what the Torah bids us here in this parashah not to do? 
(H/T Yitzchok)
Education Ministry Funding Evangelical Program Targeting Israeli Teens
Israel’s education ministry is providing state funding for a Christian evangelical leadership training program in the northern West Bank city of Ariel.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 Israeli high school students are expected to participate in the Bible-themed outdoor program over the next year.

The driving force behind the initiative is Heather Johnston, executive director of the United States Israel Education Association (USIEA), an American lobby group that has managed to create partnerships with a number of Jewish communities in Israel’s disputed heartland.

...Johnston and her husband Bruce own and run a Christian retreat center in northern California called JH Ranch. JH Israel, a sister organization set up for fundraising purposes, built the National Leadership Center in Ariel based on the same model.

Over the years, the Johnstons have hosted dozens of schoolchildren from Ariel at their California retreat center. It was during one such visit about a decade ago that they decided to create a similar facility in Ariel.

JH Israel’s website boasts that with its new Israeli government contract, the Ariel facility becomes “the only recognized provider of leadership and biblical content for Israel’s Ministry of Education.”

An education ministry spokeswoman confirmed that a contract for almost a million shekels of state funding had indeed been signed but would not respond to a request for confirmation that no other provider of such content exists.

The spokeswoman also claimed that the program in Ariel had “no connection” to the Christian retreat center in California, emphasizing that the approved state funding would not go directly to the evangelicals but rather to the municipal company in Ariel that runs the facility.

According to the JH Israel website, however, a key objective of the Ariel facility is to provide participants with “a deeper connection to God by embracing their biblical and cultural heritage.”

The target audience for what plainly appears to be religious education, according to the site, are young Israelis who have become “disconnected from the roots of their faith.” 
(Read it in full here.)
Every time we ignore a beggar or pretend we didn't notice someone in need of help getting on the bus, hoping someone else will deal with it, our heart grows a callus. It becomes a bit more hardened every time we do this until we find that we can ignore just about anything and it doesn't pain us or guilt us at all. And in the end we only hurt ourselves by giving up on opportunities to emulate Hashem, which is kind of the whole purpose of life.

So! What are we going to do about this? We can't ignore it!!



  1. The Or Hahayim Hakadosh explains that the verses hint to not ignoring our lost brethren in this Final Exile.

    Thanks, Devash, for bringing this outrageous news to our attention.

    1. Thank you, Yaak, for bringing us the Or HaHayim HaKadosh. Shabbat shalom!

  2. It seems that there are those in power in Israel who are colluding with this whole missionary movement, and we all must thank you for bringing this to light. There are only a few like you who are enligtening us to these chilulei H'. It's almost unbelievable that this should be allowed to continue. H' help us!