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Story: Parshat Ki Teitzei, 9/13/19

09/17/2019 09:22:40 AM


Rabbi Charlie

Almost every month, people will happily get their birthday gift – the awesome happy birthday pen or magnet – and then we’ll do the anniversary blessing and someone will ask – what gift do the anniversary people get? The answer is usually – each other. Well, this Shabbat, I’m giving the anniversary couples an extra special gift – instead of just one story, I’m going to share two of them. I know – it’s pretty amazing. They are both based on the mitzvah, the sacred obligation, from Deuteronomy, chapter 22, verse 4:

If you see someone’s donkey or ox fallen on the road,

do not ignore it -

וְהִתְעַלַּמְתָּ֖ מֵהֶ֑ם;

Do not hide yourself from the situation

You must help the person.

Today, we don’t see a lot of oxen that have fallen on the side of the road. We don’t see a lot of fallen donkeys either. So what does it look like to do this mitzvah, this sacred commandment? It looks like this:

It was the start of the school year in Wichita, Kansas and 2nd grader Connor Crites was crying in the corner of the class. He has autism, he occasionally gets overstimulated, and right then, he was having a tough moment. Lots of kids, lots of people - might have tried to ignore the situation. Christian Moore, another child in the class, walked over to hold Connor’s hand.

It was so simple – a kind gesture in a time of need. Christian didn’t know Connor. He just saw that things weren’t going well and offered comfort. And it made all the difference in the world to help someone who was struggling make it through that difficult moment. What’s really nice is that it wasn’t just about that moment. It’s led to a friendship that has included lunches and play dates and plans for a sleep over.


It is so easy to ignore, to hide ourselves. Often times, it’s as easy as walking over and showing some compassion. We all need that support at one time or another and we all can give that support at one time or another. But sometimes, helping isn’t so easy. Sometimes it takes more of a commitment. Our second story begins where all tales of good deeds begin – we start in the mystical and magical land of Starbucks…

Catherine Pearlman was ordering a tall coffee with a pump of mocha when she glanced over at a flyer. She saw that there was a need for a kidney donor with her blood type – O-positive. For those who don’t know, we are generally born with two kidneys. We only need one to live. Because of illness, kidneys can fail. And it is pretty amazing - it is possible to take a kidney from one person and put it in another person, but it’s a major surgery and most people don’t just donate a kidney because they read about it on a flyer.

But Catherine did. She didn’t ignore it, she didn’t hide herself. She saw that there was a need and she said, I can do this. By donating her kidney, she saved the life of Eli Valdez. Afterwards, she wrote about the experience: “I can’t improve the lives of all who suffer. However, I can help one man have a better life. I hope this one act moves others to find a way in their own lives, in whatever way makes sense, to perform their own acts of kindness.”


While there aren’t a lot of fallen donkeys or oxen that we see most days, we do see that there are people who need help. People need help in challenging moments, people need help in life threatening situations, people need help in many different ways. We can’t be everyone’s savior, but during this time of reflection and repentance and acts of loving kindness, we can take to heart the words of our tradition – don’t ignore people in need. Help out where you can.

Shabbat Shalom!



Thu, August 6 2020 16 Av 5780