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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Mishpatim

Every Dog Has Its Day

"And people of holiness shall you be to me The flesh of an animal that is found torn in the field shall not be eaten; it should instead be passed to a dog." What could this possibly to do with the mandate to be holy?!
Rabbi Stewart WeissShvat 29 5781
7
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Our Sedra of Mishpatim is Halacha par excellence - no less than 53 separate Mitzvot are squeezed into this one Sedra. Taken together, they paint a beautiful picture of an ideal world in which we not only serve Hashem, but also treat our fellow human beings with respect and compassion. Fittingly, there are a significant number of commandments that relate to our obligation to create a system of law and order to redress grievances and insure that justice prevails; these Mitzvot are the basis for several tractates of the Talmud.

In the very middle of the parsha there is a statement that could well be considered the centerpiece, the code and catch-all phrase of the sedra: "And people of holiness shall you be to me." ((22:30). Does this not sum up everything? Is this not the "bottom line" of what the entire Torah is meant to teach us, the "end game," what is meant to be accomplished in the training of our neshamot?

And yet, the second half of this same elevated verse is mystifying. It says: "The flesh of an animal that is found torn in the field shall not be eaten; it should instead be passed to a dog."

What could this possibly to do with the mandate to be holy?! It seems like we are going from the sublime to the ridiculous; I could have thought of innumerable other directives to complement the first part of the pasuk.

But perhaps Rashi - as always - can enlighten us as to what is going on here. He quotes the Mechilta who reminds us that the dogs helped us in Egypt. They did not bark as we left on our exodus, so as not to attract any undue attention to us, which might have caused the populace to react violently against us. For this, Hashem compensates the canine world by ordering us not to simply throw away treif meat, but rather to give it to the dogs. Says Rashi: "the Holy One, blessed be He, does not withhold the reward of any creature."

Ahh, here is the point then: What most matters in life is establishing a connection, a binding covenant between us and G-d. We have our task to accomplish - to be holy, with all that entails. And Hashem has His committment as well - to recognize what we do and acknowledge it with His blessings. To be "kadosh" is a lot to ask of us, a lifelong task that is extremely demanding; but it becomes infinitely easier to fulfill when we know that G-d sees & appreciates our actions. Make no "bones" about it: these are the twin towers of any relationship - trust, and mutual respect.
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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