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YIP Parsha Project Parshat Masei

07/22/2014 11:00:17 AM


YIP Parsha Project

Masei                                                                                                Ariella Nayberg


In this week’s parsha, Parshas Masei, we learn about an Ir Miklat (City of Refuge).  These are cities that are set aside for a person who commits an unintentional murder.  The murderer goes to this city to protect himself from the family of the victim and to go through a teshuva process.  The murderer is then released when the current Kohen Gadol passes away.  Because of this circumstance, the Mishna tells us that it is very likely that the murderer would pray for the death of the Kohen Gadol so that he can be free.  Likewise, the mother of the Kohen Gadol would give gifts to the murderer in hopes that he would not pray for the death of her son.

A question is asked as to why we should worry that these prayers would come true.  The Kohen Gadol did nothing wrong and therefore does not deserve death.  However, the Talmud tells us that the Kohen Gadol did in fact do something wrong because of his failure to pray that no tragedies would occur.  Since he did not pray for this, he is susceptible to these prayers for his death.  But he did not actively do something wrong! How can this be fair?  And even if his mistake was that he neglected to daven, how is death a suitable punishment?

The Torah has expectations for the Jewish people regarding kindness.  There are three different acts that a person can perform: helping someone, harming someone, and doing nothing.  Obviously, helping is good and harming is bad.  The secular view of doing nothing is that it is a neutral act.  But what does the Torah think about the act of doing nothing?  In the Gemara, we learn about the prohibition of Tzaar Baalai Chaim (causing harm to an animal).  We learn this prohibition from the source that says a person is obligated to remove the heavy load that a donkey might be carrying if you see the donkey is suffering from it.  One would think that the source for this prohibition would come from an example of actively hurting an animal by hitting it, etc.  But our source is one of neutrality.  By not removing the load from the donkey, you are neither actively helping nor actively harming.  You are just not doing anything.  In other words, doing nothing is the same as hurting the animal.

Likewise, in Parshas Kedoshim, we learn “do not stand by the blood of your fellow Jew”. We are commanded to be active in helping those in trouble and not to ignore them.  From this we learn that if you see a fellow Jew in trouble and choose not to help him, it is as if you caused the suffering and you are at fault.  Therefore, doing nothing is harmful.  Since the Kohen Gadol failed to pray for no tragedies to occur, and he allowed the status quo to prevail, he is at fault.  He passively hurt the Jewish people.  This is regarded as a serious sin and is deserving of a serious punishment.

We can take this lesson and apply it to our own lives.  Being passive, as well as committing a harmful act, are both seen as negative actions.  As we enter the nine days before Tisha B’Av, we must all unite and remember to take an active role in helping each other.  This includes helping our brothers and sisters in Israel at this critical time.  Together, everyone’s acts of kindness, and the effort that we put forth to do chesed, will help bring Mashiach.




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