Help, But Don't Enable
Parashat Ki Teitzei

Dena Weiss

Although the phrase ki teitzei refers to "going out" to war, the overarching theme of this week’s parashah is how to be a good civilian, neighbor, and householder.  We learn about putting up fences to keep our guests safe, we learn about disciplining our children, we learn about treating the human body with respect. There are laws of marriage and divorce, laws of inheritance and charitable agriculture, and laws about treating animals with sensitivity. With all of these laws that are about vigilance and taking responsibility, it is surprising to find two laws in this week’s parashah wherein the Rabbis construct an exception to the norms of good citizenship and neighborliness. They teach that, in fact, there are certain times when a person can and should evade responsibility, shirking what would otherwise be considered an important obligation. This surprising reversal draws our attention to these laws. Examining these exceptions and understanding why they have been made can teach us critical lessons about the right way and wrong way to be a good neighbor, the wrong and right ways to help.

Help, But Don't Enable
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