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Kindness toward Our Enemies

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After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her. Deuteronomy 21:13-14

The Torah portion for this week is Ki Teitzei, which means "when you go out," from Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:1-10.

The leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, routinely calls for Israel's destruction. Yet, when his one-year-old granddaughter was in need of medical care, he brought her to Israel for treatment. And Israel warmly greeted the enemy and treated the little girl with kindness and care.

The Haniyehs are not alone in looking to Israel for medical assistance. Each year, hundreds of children from Gaza turn to the Schneider Children's Hospital near Tel Aviv, even while the hospital has been forced to reinforce its windows and build bomb shelters because of Hamas missiles fired from Gaza. Even as they strike us, we treat their sick.

In addition, although Israel is officially at war with Syria, Israel has been quietly treating those injured in the country's civil war both inside Syria and Israel where Syrian officials secretly transport those in need of immediate care. Israel treats the injured at its own expense. One Israeli hospital administrator said, "For us they are patients who need immediate help or they will die. And it makes no difference where they come from, or whether they're combatants or civilians."

How can Israel treat the cruelest of our enemies with the greatest of kindness? It's part of our tradition and our value system based on the Bible.

This week's Torah portion contains more laws than any other reading. Among the first laws stated is the commandment to treat a woman taken captive in war with dignity. She was to be given 30 days to mourn her family, and only after that time, if the soldier truly wished to make her his wife, could he then marry her. Otherwise she was to be set free.

A few verses later we learn that an Israelite found guilty of a capital offense must be put to death. The Jewish sages comment that the proximity of these two laws teaches us that we are to treat all people fairly. There is no preferential treatment to those who are our own, and we don't turn our backs on our enemies. We must treat everyone with justice and with mercy.

If Israel can extend such kindness to its enemies, surely we can be merciful toward the people in our lives who may have treated us poorly at one time. We need to forgive those who have hurt us, but the Bible encourages us to go even further. We are to help, assist, and treat our former "enemies" with kindness and dignity.

This week, let us think of someone in our own lives who has hurt us in the past. Consider how we can let go of that painful memory and embrace the person with love.

Lord, please help us love all people as You do.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President


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