The Torah tells us (Exodus 23:5), “כִּי-תִרְאֶה חֲמוֹר שֹׂנַאֲךָ, רֹבֵץ תַּחַת מַשָּׂאוֹ, וְחָדַלְתָּ, מֵעֲזֹב לוֹ–עָזֹב תַּעֲזֹב, עִמּוֹ – If you see your enemy’s donkey that has collapsed from its load, do not pass by, you should help him.” Obviously, you aren’t going to be finding donkeys running around the streets, unless you are vacationing somewhere in Egypt, but then you would probably have other problems… But what you will find, in abundance, is people who have broken down on the side of the highway. The Torah teaches us this important lesson to try and ingrain into our hearts a certain type of attitude that we have discussed before. We must always try to be like God and be givers; when we are presented with an opportunity to give we have to grab it and make a positive difference in the world. That is what being a Jew is all about, giving and improving the world.
The line in the Torah is talking about an enemy to teach us an important lesson. There are certain things in life that should be our natural reaction, for example, when you see or smell delicious food your mouth begins to water, this is a natural reaction. The Torah does not instruct us in those things which should be our natural reaction, and this is why it specifically tells us about an enemy and not a friend. When you see your friend in trouble you shouldn’t need to be told to help him/her, it should be natural. When it comes to an enemy, the Torah feels it necessary to remind us that we should help even them.
These are the two lessons to be drawn from this line, (1) when it comes to friends, it should be a natural reaction to help them when they are in need, that is what it means to be a real friend, (2) even when you see your enemy you need to help him/her, because Judaism is trying to make us into givers who make the world a better place.
Today’s Jewish mission is, if you see someone who is broken down on the highway, stop to see what you can do, offer a hand, a cell phone call or just a bottle of water and a smile. Obviously, as always, be smart and safe, if you are uncomfortable with this, find another way to help someone. Do not stop alone and without an adult. Be safe.