OU Torah Insights ProjectParashat Ki Teitzei
Parshas Ki Seitzei, with its panoply of 74 mitzvos (more than any other single parshah) affords us an excellent opportunity to review the way that we categorize mitzvos.
Typically, we distinguish between mitzvos bein adam lachaveiro (concerning man and his neighbor) and mitzvos bein adam laMakom (concerning man and G-d). Or, one could say, between those mitzvos that are also expressions of basic morality, and those whose sole motivation is Divine imperative.
These distinctions have their roots in venerable rabbinic sources and are quite useful. Nonetheless, we sometimes tend to employ these distinctions too sharply.
For example, most would consider charity to be a classic mitzvah bein adam lachaveiro. The Sefer Hachinnuch argues, however, that this mitzvah has significant bein adam laMakom dimensions. Had the A-mighty wished to distribute the resources and assets of His world in a perfectly equitable manner so that all people would have equal amounts, He certainly could have done so.
Rather, the A-mighty wished to inculcate within His people the great importance of doing acts of kindness and showing compassion to others. Thus, charity clearly has an aspect of bein adam laMakom as well.
Two mitzvos in Ki Seitzei can also be understood in this manner. The requirement to build a maakeh, a porch or parapet, around a flat roof so that "you should not cause bloodshed in your home," lest someone fall off, would appear to be a mitzvah bein adam lachaveiro.
Yet, in putting up a maakeh, one recites a blessing, and the Rambam indicates that one does not make a blessing on any mitzvah that is bein adam lachaveiro. This would suggest that a maakeh is not exclusively in this category.
This may be because once the roof is complete, even before people are actually able to go up on it, the Torah commands that a maakeh be erected. It would be insufficient to simply prevent anyone from going on the roof. The requirement of a maakeh is not just to protect people; it fulfills a Divine imperative, which sensitizes us even further.
Similarly, the mitzvah of maintaining honest weights and measures would seem to be a simple case of treating fellow humans fairly. But it is juxtaposed with the story of Amaleik's attack on Israel, and the Midrah notes a connectionif a person is dishonest in business, he exposes himself to attack.
The Netziv wonders about this connection. How could Amaleik be the symbolic punishment for corrupt weights and measures if the Jews did not engage in any commerce while in the desert?
The Netziv explains that one who cheats in weights and measures does not do so for personal gain. Rather, he manifests a lack of faith in the A-mighty by expressing doubt that Hashem supports and sustains people according to His will. The Gemara even suggests that this is a form of idolatry.
Amaleik attacked the Jewish people because they expressed doubts about whether the A-mighty would continue to sustain them in the desert--the same sin that a dishonest businessman engages in.
This sin is another example of how a mitzvah bein adam lachveiro is, at its root, a mitzvah bein adam laMakom, and demonstrates once again how observing even those mitzvos that appear to be simple rules of social conduct achieves the highest levels of Divine service.
Rabbi Ephraim KanarfogelRabbi Kanarfogel is the rabbi of Congregation Beth Aaron in Teaneck, New Jersey.
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