This Shabbat:

Friday Candle Lighting: 5:17 PM
 Shabbat Ends: 6:14 PM

Torah Message:

Handle With Care

“If a person steals an ox…” (21:37)

People are sensitive. I know… I’m one of them. Having been educated in the Empire-Building English Public (i.e. Private) School system, where “big boys don’t cry,” I can tell you that however stiff your upper lip may be, inside we are all softies.

In this week’s weekly Torah portion, the Torah tells us that a thief who slaughters or sells a stolen ox has to pay five times the value to its owner. However, if he does the same with a sheep, he only has to pay four times, because he has already paid part of his penalty with the embarrassment and humiliation he felt during the theft by carrying the sheep across his shoulders. One would not place sheep-stealers among mankind’s most sensitive beings, yet the Torah evaluates a sheep-stealer’s embarrassment as calculable in hard cash.

The Talmud (Yevamot 44b) permits or even mandates birth control in the case of a widow who is breast-feeding her deceased husband’s child and then re-marries. We are concerned that should she become pregnant and her milk sour, the current husband might be unwilling to pay for milk and eggs to feed the baby. Then she will have to go to Beit Din to claim child support from the beneficiaries of the dead husband. She may be too embarrassed to do this, and there is danger that the baby may not receive adequate nutrition and die.

Is there any greater love than a mother for her baby? And yet we are still concerned that embarrassment and humiliation may vie with motherly love.

It is certainly much easier to be sensitive to ourselves than to others. But at some level, even those who seem the least sensitive feel embarrassment and hurt. Everyone deserves to be “handled with care.”

  • Source: Rashi, Chidushei HaLev