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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Ki Tetze

Freiers And Forgivers

There is a fine, but crucial line, between being a forgiver and a "freier". Two Mitzvot in Parashat Ki Tetze teach the difference.
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There are no less than 74 Mitzvot in Parshat Ki Tetze! Among the most fascinating is that of Shich’cha, whereby the farmer who forgets sheaves of grain or fruit while harvesting his field is prohibited from returning to collect that food. He must leave it for the poor.

(Thus the classic trivia question: What one Mitzva in the Torah cannot ever be done with kavana, intent!).

From here we see that even if one performs a good act unwittingly, without his knowledge, Hashem counts this in our "plus column," because He assumes that, deep down, we always have the intention of doing chesed, whether we manage to exercise that intent or not. So G-d is, as it were, dan l’kaf z’chut, assuming the best about us – a good lesson for us to apply during the month of Elul.

But I see another important lesson in the concept of shich’cha. The ability to forget – something we associate with growing old, or the illness of dementia, chas v’shalom - does not always have to be a bad thing. What a wonderful gift it would be if we could manage to forget the petty indiscretions that might have been done to us over the years, the flippant remarks sent our way, or the occasional snub – real or perceived – that caused us to separate from our fellow Jew, or defame him in return.

What if – like the farmer in our sedra – we could just turn our back on those things & walk away, without a second thought? And if, later, they did come to mind, we could shrug our shoulders & say, "What’s done is done; I’ve moved on to a new row, a new & better place."

That, in a sense, is the essence of Teshuva, not so much returning as turning, starting in a different direction.

Yet fittingly, our Sedra ends by reminding us that there are certain things which we should not, must not forget. The last of the parsha’s mitzvot – indeed, the literal "last words" of the sedra – command us to remember & never forget - Zachor, lo tishkach - the evil that Amalek perpetrated upon us when we left Egypt, & throughout our history. As quick as we must be to forget the hurtful things done to us by our fellow Jews, that is how steadfast & vigilant we must be to stay acutely aware of our true enemies & the real danger which they represent to our holy way of life.

There is a fine, but crucial line, between being a forgiver and a freier. Let’s be sure not to cross it.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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