This week’s Torah reading, Ki Tetze, might seem like a laundry list of rules, and those who like to count mitzvot in the different readings, claim that this parashah has more mitzvot than any other in the Torah. Most of the laws have to do with our interactions with other people such as family, workers, and other nations, expressing concern for someone’s safety, questions of proper behavior towards others, and even how we treat animals.
In a short video, Tal Ben Shachar, who created the ground-breaking course in positive psychology as a Harvard professor, spoke about the effect of social media on happiness. He pointed out that when people post on Facebook, Instagram and other sites, they’re posting happy, smiling faces; the wonderful things they, their children, grandchildren and pets are up to, and everything seems wonderful, unless you feel your life isn’t nearly as exciting.
There’s a culture that suggests we can’t be human by posting true feelings, and if we do, there’s a high price to pay.
We can’t be our true selves in cyberspace, but we can when we interact with real-life friends one-on-one, and this is one of the messages I feel our Torah reading is trying to get across.
In Chapter 24, after the commandment regarding returning lost objects, we’re told, Lo tireh et chamor achicha o shoro noflim baderekh v’hitalamta mayhem, hakaym takim emo, “If you see your fellow’s ox or ass fallen on the road, do not ignore it; you must help him raise it.” This is quite practical; the animal may have buckled under its burden, and the best way to raise it would be with two people working together. Two heads are better than one, as the cliché goes.
Sometimes we, as people, are in danger of falling; our world is stressful and so are our lives. When the pressure builds up, it’s nice to have a “fellow” to help lift the burden.