“You shall not muzzle an ox while it is threshing.” (Deuteronomy 25:4)
Slavery in Egypt is a defining experience for the Jewish people and God’s redemption from slavery the paradigmatic expression of both God’s power and love. Over and over again the Torah uses the memory of slavery as the basis for an empathic response to those on the margins of society (usually represented by the stranger, orphan, and widow) and as a rationale for the ethical norms of Israelite society. So it is not surprising to see that motif appear in Parashat Ki Teitzei, after it forbids entering a debtor’s home to confiscate an item pledged as security (Deut. 24:11) and taking a widow’s robe in pledge (Deut. 4:17). It is an admonition: you know how it feels to be powerless and stripped of dignity; don’t make anybody else feel that way.
Meteorologists have struggled to find words to describe the force and fury of Hurricane Harvey. Likely, it is impossible for an “outsider” to feel the powerlessness it evoked in those in its destructive path. But Ki Teitzei asks us to do exactly that when it commands, “If you see your fellows ox or ass fallen on the road, do not ignore it; you must help him raise it.” (Deut. 22:4)
It is the JCC Movement’s responsibility to help our friends in Houston raise up what has fallen down in their community and to do so in a way that preserves their dignity. The JCC in Houston, a mainstay of the community, is slowly getting back on its feet so it can provide services to those in need. We need to help it stand upright, too. Click here to do your part.
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom