Honorable Mensch-ion

Open the Cover

While it is rare to see a donkey walking down the street in Los Angeles, in the world of the Torah, we learn that you must not ignore a donkey without an owner. In fact, you must stop and tend to it together.

In the book of Exodus, we read a similar commandment, but with one major difference. Instead of the donkey being chamor achicha, the donkey of your fellow human being, it is a chamor sonecha, the donkey of your enemy. Rabeinu Bachya explains that when we have the wherewithal to take care of our enemy’s donkey, hate dissipates and appreciation grows. The two parties forget about previous animosity and only focus on the bond that unites them.

We are in the midst of wedding season. Week after week through the High Holy Day season, I have the honor of standing under the chuppah. While I recite the same words each week, the stories of the couples drastically change. I always ask a couple how they met. Some of the couples most in love under the chuppah could never have imagined that moment. They tell me they went to high school together, and they never spoke. Some studied in college together but had preconceived notions of the other until each could have the courage to look at the other and not see an adversary, but a friend.

The Rabbis have many acronyms for the month of Elul. One such saying is eesh lreyehu ulmatanot levyonim, one should look inside their fellow human being and give to the most vulnerable.

It is easy to judge a book by its cover. But the mitzvah that we read this week teaches just the opposite. Open the cover, see what bonds you together, and start your growth from there.

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