Ki Tetzei(Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)
Kind and Caring
We all know how important it is to care about others. God wants us to be kind and caring, and He has filled the Torah with many mitzvot and guidelines to help us become as caring as possible. One of the ways to care about someone is by caring about his property as much as if it were our own, and doing what we can to prevent it from getting lost or ruined. This week's portion (22:1-4) teaches us how to care for other people by caring about what is theirs.
In our story, a kid takes kite flying, and caring, to new heights.
Where I live it's normal to see a squirrel up in a tree, and even seeing a cat up on a branch isn't that unusual. But I admit I was more than a little surprised when I was walking through the park the other day and saw my friend, Richard swinging on the branches of one of the old oak trees like he was a chimpanzee. Well, he wasn't actually swinging, but he was pretty high up there, and while some people I know, myself included, are the more adventurous types who you might expect to find up a tree, Richard is much more the serious book-worm type, and seeing him up there was about as funny as seeing me in a library after school hours.
"Hey, whatcha doin' up there?" I asked him.
"Oh, hi Steve." Rich looked a little embarrassed to be caught among the branches. "This kite got stuck and I thought I could get it, but it seems to be a little more complicated than I expected..."
Well I hadn't expected to do any tree climbing that day, but I felt sorry for Richard. For someone like him to climb a tree, he must really want to get his kite back. "You want some help?" I offered, rolling up my sleeves.
"Well," he smiled, "I don't want to bother you, but I have to admit I'm a bit over my head in more ways than one."
I laughed - at least the guy still had his sense of humor.
I rolled up my sleeves, shimmied up the tree, and soon we were both hard at work. It takes a lot of patience to get a kite down; if you just tug on it, either the string breaks and the kite becomes a permanent tree-decoration, or the kite tears to shreds. But after a lot of untwisting and untangling, we finally got it.
I helped Richard get down, and now back on solid ground I could see why he was working so hard. His kite was really nice - one of those expensive Japanese kinds. "Richard, I never knew you were so into kite flying," I said. "Where did you buy this beauty?"
He gave me a funny look, like I had just asked him a tough question or something.
"I, um, didn't actually buy it anywhere. I just saw it stuck up there, and..."
You mean it wasn't his? Now I was even more surprised. Richard did not strike me as the type of kid to go climbing trees just to get a free kite. "Well should we give your new kite for a spin? The wind is perfect."
Now he looked at me like I had lost it. "Oh, I see you didn't understand ... this kite isn't mine. And we can't use it."
I just didn't get it. For a smart kid, Richard wasn't making much sense. "If the kite doesn't belong to you, and you don't even want to use it, so why were you halfway up in the clouds, trying to get it out of the tree?"
He smiled and said, "Because the kite belongs to somebody."
Huh? "What do you mean 'somebody'?"
"Well just because it wasn't my kite stuck in the tree doesn't mean I could just ignore it like it wasn't there. Don't you remember how we learned the other day in Torah studies that God wants us to care about the other person's property as much as our own?"
"Yeah, sure, but..."
"So I figured that if it was my kite up in the tree, I'd try to get it back, so why not do the same thing for whoever the kite belonged to?"
Wow, as crazy as it seemed, he was starting to make sense.
Richard started looking at the kite very closely. "I only hope it has the owner's name on it... Bingo! Not only the name, but a phone number too! Steve, you have your cell-phone on you? I want to call right away."
He really cared. My mouth hung wide open, as I silently handed him my cell phone and watched him call up the surprised 'somebody' and arrange to return their kite. I may have flown a lot of kites in my time, but I don't think, until I ran into Richard that day, I had ever seen one soar so high - without even leaving the ground.
Q. What did Steve think when he first saw Richard trying to get the kite down from the tree?
A. He thought that Richard was trying to save his own kite that got stuck.
Q. How would you feel if you were the person who lost his kite, and got a call from Richard telling you he found it?
A. I would feel very happy that someone cared so much to help me get it back.
Q. What should be our attitude about other people's property?
A. We should treat it with at least as much care and respect as if it was our own. A person only truly cares about others when he cares about their property too.
Q. Why is it important to care about other people's property?
A. Besides the fact that it is an act of kindness - and the right thing to do, it also helps to train us to become nicer and more sensitive people, which is one of the main lessons God wants us to learn in life. It is a trait that will help us to live a happier life and also helps to make the world a better place.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. How do you think an increased level of respect and caring for each other's property would impact society?
A. Much of the tension and anxiety in life today stems from fear of having our property stolen or abused. If we all learned, and put into practice, the Torah's many guidelines concerning mutual respect and caring, the world would change into a much better and brighter place overnight.
Q. How can we increase our awareness and sensitivity toward others, and especially their property?
A. Besides learning all of the Torah's relevant guidelines as mentioned above, we could try to keep in mind how we would want someone to treat us if the situation was reversed, and then go out and act that way toward others.