1998This weeks parsha introduces us to an intricate legal code. Interspersed with specific laws, there are also certain values/qualities which are also being adduced. The following verse seems to imply that one must help ones fellow, irrespective of how one feels about the other. The Midrash that follows the verse sees it a little differently.
Helping Someone You Hate
'When you see the donkey of your enemy buckling under his burden, and you feel like passing him by, you should help him lighten his load.'" (Exodus 23:5)
Midrash Tanchuma (Buber) Mishpatim
"...It was You who established equity." (Psalms 99:4)
Rabbi Alexandri said, "Two donkey drivers who despised each other were traveling along the same path. One donkey started buckling under his burden and the other donkey driver passed him by.
The driver [who was struggling with his donkey] said to the other driver, "It is written in the Torah, 'When you see the donkey of your enemy buckling under his burden, and you feel like passing him by, you should help him lighten his load.'" (Exodus 23:5)
Immediately the other driver went to help him. [While they were working together], they began to speak and the [driver who at first had refused to help] thought to himself, "This fellow really likes me and I had no idea!" Afterwards, they went to an inn together and they ate and drank.
So, who caused them to make peace? It was because one of them recalled the Torah, for "...it was you who established equity."
YOUR MIDRASH NAVIGATOR
1.What compels the two enemies to get together?
2.Can you imagaine having a social code that would compel you to help an enemy?
3.Would this work if the two people truly hated each other? If yes, how?
4.What is the midrash assuming about a person's enemies?
Prepared by Rabbi Avi Weinstein.