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Ki Tetzei(Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)

Ki Tetzei 5759

GOOD MORNING! Here is a fascinating question -- What is the essence of friendship? It is probably fair to say that most people have many friends -- people with whom they socialize, play sports, travel, shop, dine. Are they really friends?

There's an old story, perhaps a Midrash, which tells of a businessman in ancient times from the Land of Israel who was accused of being a spy. After being condemned to death, the man requests 30 days to return home to put his affairs in order and to say good-bye to his family. The judge (small "J") laughs at the ridiculous request; the man responds that he has a friend who will stay in jail in his place until he comes back -- and if he doesn't come back, his friend will die in his place.

This the judge had to see. So, they send for the friend. Sure enough, he agrees to stand bond in place of his friend all the way up to the noose.

The businessman returns home, puts his affairs in order, says good-bye to his family and returns with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately, there is a storm at sea and he is delayed. He arrives shortly before the time he is to be executed. He runs to the town square where his friend is already at the gallows; he screams, "No, it is I who is to be executed!" And his friend yells back, "No, you're too late!" They create such a commotion and confusion that the king calls for them to be brought before him.

Each presents his case and then they begin to argue with each other about who is to be executed. Finally, the king stops them and says, "I will pardon you both on one condition -- that you make me a third friend!"

What is the essence of friendship? Loyalty. A true friend is always there for you. He may not -- and probably should not -- condone every aspect of your behavior, but he is there for you in bad times as well as good.

A true friend cares enough about you to tell you when you are wrong, but he does it in a way that you can hear and with love. A true friend will help you grow as a human being and to reach your goals.

How does one make a true friend? First, be careful who you choose to be your friend. If friendship implies commitment and loyalty, you should select your friends carefully. A friend can help you elevate yourself in life or he can bring you down. Know the character and history of someone before making him a friend.

Pirke Avos, Ethics of the Fathers, (a compendium of Jewish wisdom found in the back of most Jewish prayer books -- or available from your local Jewish bookstore or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242) gives the following advice: "Konei l'cha chaver" which translates as "Buy for yourself a friend." Obviously, one cannot buy friendship -- although I did have a college roommate who always told me "Friends stay friends longer when they give gifts" (problem was, he always wanted to be on the receiving end...).

However, friendship does take investment. The best vitamin for acquiring a friend is B1. If one wants a person to be his friend, then he has to give the commitment and loyalty in order to get it in return. (It is much like marriage.) One must watch out for his friend's best interest and to be there for him. By the way, if you want to see who loves you and is concerned about you -- look at who cares about your children. If your friend cares about your children, he really cares about you!

Life is enriched by true friendship. A true friend doubles the joy and halves the grief.


Torah Portion of the Week
Ki Tetzei

Topics in this week's portion include:

Women Captives, First-Born's Share, The Rebellious Son, Hanging and Burial, Returning Lost Articles, The Fallen Animal, Transvestitism, The Bird's Nest, Guard-Rails, Mixed Agriculture, Forbidden Combinations, Bound Tassels, Defamed Wife, Penalty for Adultery, Betrothed Maiden, Rape, Unmarried Girl, Mutilated Genitals, Mamzer, Ammonites & Moabites, Edomites & Egyptians, The Army Camp, Sheltering Slaves, Prostitution, Deducted Interest, Keeping Vows, Worker in a Vineyard, Field Worker, Divorce and Remarriage, New Bridegroom, Kidnapping, Leprosy, Security for Loans, Paying Wages on Time, Testimony of Close Relatives, Widows and Orphans, Forgotten Sheaves, Leftover Fruit, Flogging, The Childless Brother-in-Law, Weights and Measures, and Remembering What Amalek Did to Us.

 

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah commands us to physically assist others in their time of need: "You shall not see the donkey or the ox of your brother stumble on the way and hide yourself from them. Rather, you shall lift them up with him." (Deut. 22:4) Why does the Torah specify the words "with him"?

The Sages clarify in the Talmud that if a person who needs help tells you, "I'm going to rest right now. You have a mitzvah to help me, so help me all by yourself," then you are not obligated to help him for the Torah states "with him." You need not allow someone to take advantage of you just because you want to do kindness and he is lazy.

It is important to understand the Torah's definition of what constitutes being taken advantage of. If a person always refuses to lend you his things, but then one day he comes to request that you lend him something, what is your obligation? Here the Torah position is very clear that you are obligated to help him and to refuse is a violation of the commandment, "Do not take revenge" (Leviticus 19:18). What is the difference between this and the above?

The principle is that whenever a person sincerely needs your help you should help him -- even if he does not reciprocate by helping you in return. This is true even if he will never help you. As a matter of fact, the highest level of kindness, chesed shel emes (true kindness), is to do a kindness when you know you will receive nothing in return. (Preparing a person for burial and burying him is the usual example; there is no way the individual can return the kindness.)

Therefore, if a person has a valid reason that he is unable to work with you, then you should help him in any event -- and focus on the pleasure of helping without any resentment!

Published: January 25, 2000

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