Helping One's Enemy by Barry Pogolowitz


       In this week's Parsha, we learn of the law about assisting an enemy's donkey when it is in distress.  The Posuk states  "כי תפגע שור אויבך או חמורו תעה השב תשיבנו לו", "If you find your enemy's ox or donkey going astray you must retrieve it for him."  The next Posuk adds "כי תראה חמור שנאך רובץ תחת משאו וחדלת מעזוב לו עזוב תעזוב  עמו", "If you see your enemy's donkey over-burdened by its load, although you might want to avoid helping him, you must make every effort to help him (שמות כ"ג:ד'-ה')

        The obvious question is how one can be compelled by Torah law to assist an individual who, in all probability, would desert him in these cases if the circumstances were reversed.  The answer is that the Torah, through these examples, is trying to build moral character.  There is a necessity to fight that natural tendency to pass one's enemy by and avoid doing anything to help him.  One must control his emotions and recognize that despite the fact that this individual may be one's enemy, he is still a human being and morally, one is obligated to assist any human being who is suffering.

            A more fundamental question, posed by many commentators, is how the Torah can speak of a Jewish person having an enemy at all.  Doesn't the Torah say explicitly "ואהבת לרעך כמוך,"  "love your neighbor as yourself" (ויקרא י"ט:י"ח)?  How then can the Posuk even talk about "the donkey of your enemy" when a Jew apparently should have no enemies?  One explanation is that the Torah in our Pesukim is dealing with the case of a wicked person, an evident transgressor, where hating would indeed be permitted.  The Torah's requirement to love one's fellow Jew applies only if that Jew is himself committed to the basic beliefs and values of the Torah.  If, however, someone is fully aware of and familiar with Jewish law, but chooses to publicly and openly ignore it, this person is not included in the Mitzvah of ואהבת לרעך כמוך, and one may indeed hate him.  Our Pesukim teach, though, that even such a person must be assisted when he is suffering.  It is fair to say that if one must exercise this kind of self-restraint when dealing with a sinner, how much more so must one be ready to assist when a non-transgressor whom one may simply not personally care for asks for help.

Half and Half by Mordechai Ness

Heaven on Earth by Rabbi Hershel Solnica zt”l