past week, we entered the Hebrew month of Elul. Elul is the last month of the Hebrew year and directly
precedes the High Holy Days.
Oddly, the term "high holy days" hardly
expresses the Hebrew reference of Ya-mim No-ra-im
meaning the "Days of Awe." In reality, it is we that should be awed by these particular
makes Elul important? In
order to understand that, we have to understand Rosh
Hoshanah (the beginning of the year) and Yom Kippur (the day
of atonement). It
is said that God judges us on Rosh Hoshanah and seals that
judgment on Yom Kippur.
In other words, God determines in advance how the new
year will go for us and His judgment and decree is set
during these Days of Awe.
Thus, it is somewhat important that we try to bring
ourselves to a little more spiritual point in preparation
for this event. Most
of us try to find some way of doing "tshuvah" -
acts of betterment. Personally,
I have two things that I do.
The first is that I say the entire Sefer T'hillim
(Book of Psalms) during the month of Elul.
For those who are interested, Jewish Celebrations has
added a calendar detailing which prakim (chapters) should be
said each day in order to complete this task in an efficient
calendar will continue to be offered even after Elul.
Second, I try to think of those organizations that
could use financial assistance and give tzedakah (charity)
at this time. On
that note, it's important to point out that the word "tzedakah"
does not translate to charity.
Rather, it means justice.
In essence, Judaism is a form of self-directed
governments who have attempted this idea, Judaism allows
each person to decide how to express this sense of justice -
providing for those who do not have or who are in need.
Jewish Celebrations lists one or two non-profit
organizations that do tremendous work for the Jewish
community at large, including Zichron
to Yom Kippur - the most misunderstood of all the Jewish
holy days. Most
people, many Jews included, believe that Yom Kippur is the
day that we have an opportunity to atone for our
could not be further from the truth.
As is pointed throughout the Tanakh (the Hebrew
Scriptures), we have an opportunity to immediately atone for
transgressions by, as the Psalmist points out, going to God
with a broken spirit and asking for forgiveness. Yom Kippur is a very special day because on this particular
day, each of us has an opportunity to do such intense
tshuvah through our prayers, that those efforts can atone
for the transgressions of others, all of Klal Yisrael.
onto Ki Tetze…
focus for this week is on Perek Chav-Bet (Chapter 22),
psukim aleph through gimel (verses 1-3).
They read as follows:
1. You shall not see the ox of your brother or his
sheep or goat cast off, and hide yourself from them; you
shall surely return them to your brother:
2. If your brother is not near you and you do not
know him, then gather it inside your house, and it shall
remain with you until your brother inquires after it, and
you return it to him:
3. So shall you do for his donkey, so shall you do
for his garment, and so shall you do for any lost article of
your brother that may become lost from him and you find it;
you shall not hide yourself:
of the great things about the Torah is its specificity.
However, it is necessary to read all of the Torah to
see this. When
we take individual verses, or worse - parts of verses, we
seldom gain the correct meaning.
The point of these three verses is contained in perek
gimel (verse 3) - "so shall you do for his garment, and
so shall you do for any lost article. . ."
The intention is to treat other people's property
with the same respect that we ourselves would want.
Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch covers this concept with:
The duty imposed here of caring for and returning an
animal whose owner had lost it, or, as the law is extended
in v. 3, any other lost property, only applies if, as it
says here in the case of animals (straying) if the
conditions make it quite clear, that the animal or the
article is lost. But
if it seems that it was placed there, where it is found,
even if there is some doubt about it, it may not be moved.
But if one had taken it away and kept it so that in
the meantime the owner would have had time to come and fetch
it, one may not then simply place it back, but must keep it
carefully, and, if it is of such a nature that proof of
identification is possible, public notices of its having
been found must be made.
Bava Metzia (Talmudic Tractate Bava Metzia) goes into
tremendous detail concerning conditions and requirements
concerning the issue of "lost things."
It is an interesting read in terms of legal
any event, the point here is clearly illustrated - we are
responsible for each other in many ways.
To quote my mother, may her memory be blessed,
"It is not enough that we try to be our brother's
keeper, we must be our brother's brother."