והתעלמת מהם הקם תקים עמו
"If you see your brother's donkey or ox collapsed on the road, you may not behave as if you hadn't seen it; you must help him get it up on its feet again.
(Deu 22:4 CJB)
This commandment seems to go along with this other one ...
If you see the donkey which belongs to someone who hates you lying down helpless under its load, you are not to pass him by but to go and help him free it. (Exo 23:5)
... which is about helping our enemy, not just our countryman or brother
The Hebrew for it is ...
כִּי-תִרְאֶה חֲמוֹר שֹׂנַאֲךָ, רֹבֵץ תַּחַת מַשָּׂאוֹ, וְחָדַלְתָּ, מֵעֲזֹב לוֹ--עָזֹב תַּעֲזֹב, עִמּוֹ.
The KJV puts it this way,
If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.
This implies that though our first reaction is not help that person because it is our enemy, it is wrong in the sight of Hashem.
Here are some examples of how the State of Israel applies this commandment today:
- In '47, though it was a big issue that some did not agree with, Israeli nurses included caring for wounded Palestinians.
- Today, while Gaza sends deadly rockets on Israel, Israel takes Palestinian children with heart problems into its hospitals.
"You have heard that our fathers were told, 'Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you not to stand up against someone who does you wrong. On the contrary, if someone hits you on the right cheek, let him hit you on the left cheek too! If someone wants to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well! And if a soldier forces you to carry his pack for one mile, carry it for two! When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something from you, lend it to him. "You have heard that our fathers were told, 'Love your neighbor -- and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! Then you will become children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun shine on good and bad people alike, and he sends rain to the righteous and the unrighteous alike. What reward do you get if you love only those who love you? Why, even tax-collectors do that! And if you are friendly only to your friends, are you doing anything out of the ordinary? Even the Goyim do that! Therefore, be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Mat 5:38-48 CJB)
Our Master used Deut 22:4 to expose the hypocrisy of certain religious leaders of His days. He said that ...:
They tie heavy loads onto people's shoulders
but won't lift a finger to help carry them.(Mat 23:4)
In other words, not only do they not help others carry their loads, but they heap heavy burdens on others. The context here is not about actual loads that people have to carry, but midrashically speaking about the fact that they legislated difficult, hard, and complicated halacha which had the effect of discouraging people, especially the hard working common folks with children, from following Torah. They failed to make following Torah something enjoyable. It is amazing how, even when Hashem gives us something beautiful to enjoy and help, we have to make it something hard and complicated. Why do religious leaders have a tendency to do that?
- Does it feed their pride; and makes them appear more religious in the sight of others?
- Does making big issues of small things give them a sense of control over others?
Of these sort of people, the Master said,
... Blind guides!
-- straining out a gnat, meanwhile swallowing a camel!
Both gnats and camels are not kosher. Yeshua compares this sort of people to the hypocrisy of those who ate so carefully so as not to incidentally swallow a gnat (which would not be kosher), but who at the same carelessly swallow a camel, which is not kosher either! The message is that they, through pride, make big difficulties of small commandments with small consequences, while all the while breaking the big commandments that carry big consequences. What the Master is saying here is that to incidentally swallow something not kosher has negligible retribution, but to put burdens on your neighbor that are so heavy that he gets discouraged from following Torah is a big sin!
Taking the same principle on a domestic level, let's ask ourselves if we do the same thing to,
- Our spouses?
- Our children?
- Our students,
- Our co-workers?
- Our employees?
The Master had an opposite M.O. He said,
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Mat 11:29-30 CJB)
The yoke the Master refers to here is an expression found in the Talmud that refers to our obligation to Torah commandments. In it we are likened to an ox under the yoke of the Torah. Some people would put heavy wooden uncomfortable yokes on their ox, while others would pad them so it would be comfortable for the animal. What Yeshua implies is that instead of doing like some and making the Torah an object of difficulty and complication, he made it something easy and even helpful.
The disciples followed suit when they were faced with establishing the format of Torah obedience for the many Gentiles who were joining the movement. To those who wanted to put on the shoulders of the new disciples the burden of the complicated and difficult unnecessary style of obedience of certain leaders, the disciple said,
... Why are you putting God to the test now by placing a yoke on the neck of the talmidim which neither our fathers nor we have had the strength to bear? No, it is through the love and kindness of the Lord Yeshua that we trust and are delivered -- and it's the same with them."
(Act 15:10-11 CJB)
Paul also followed in the footsteps of Messiah in these things. As he traveled to the different congregations to teach and to exhort, though people would willingly host him, he made sure not to be a financial burden on the people visited. He accepted gifts and donations, but never a payment or salary as some others did.
Am I not a free man? Am I not an emissary of the Messiah? Haven't I seen Yeshua our Lord? And aren't you yourselves the result of my work for the Lord? Even if to others I am not an emissary, at least I am to you; for you are living proof that I am the Lord's emissary. That is my defense when people put me under examination. Don't we have the right to be given food and drink? Don't we have the right to take along with us a believing wife, as do the other emissaries, also the Lord's brothers and Kefa? Or are Bar-Nabba and I the only ones required to go on working for our living? Did you ever hear of a soldier paying his own expenses? or of a farmer planting a vineyard without eating its grapes? Who shepherds a flock without drinking some of the milk? What I am saying is not based merely on human authority, because the Torah says the same thing --for in the Torah of Moshe it is written, "You are not to put a muzzle on an ox when it is treading out the grain." If God is concerned about cattle, all the more does he say this for our sakes. Yes, it was written for us, meaning that he who plows and he who threshes should work expecting to get a share of the crop. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others are sharing in this right to be supported by you, don't we have a greater claim to it?But we don't make use of this right. Rather, we put up with all kinds of things so as not to impede in any way the Good News about the Messiah. Don't you know that those who work in the Temple get their food from the Temple, and those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrifices offered there? In the same way, the Lord directed that those who proclaim the Good News should get their living from the Good News. But I have not made use of any of these rights.
(1Co 9:1-14 CJB)
SO THE LESSON HERE IS TO MAKE SURE THAT WE HELP THOSE WHO CARRY HEAVY BURDENS, FRIENDS OR FOES, TO NOT BE A FINANCIAL BURDEN ON OTHERS, AND COULD WE SAY, TO CHECK OURSELVES, OUR ATTITUDES, CONVERSATIONS AND MANNERS?
HOW DO WE SOMETIMES MAKE OURSELVES HEAVY BURDEN ON OTHERS?
- Through an overbearing personality, talking too much or too loud while in company?
- Monopolizing attention, or bringing too much attention to ourselves?
- Sharing too much about our own problems, sickness, and heavy workload? Maybe by doing so, we are discharging ourselves on someone who is already overloaded, but because they practice not overburdening others, we don't know it.
Sometimes even, the only person we should unload to is Hashem!