Heightened Sensitivity

Gittin (5:8) | Ben-Zion Hain | 12 years ago

The theme of Tikkun Olam links almost all of the mishnayot in the fourth and fifth chapters of Masechet Gittin. However, the final two mishnayot in chapter five deal not with Tikkun Olam but rather with the idea of Darchei Shalom – The ways of peace.

Although these mishnayot begin with the all-encompassing introductory phrase “these are the things they decreed in the interest of peace” (5:8), the examples given fall into two categories:

  1. Those things that you are not allowed to do in order to avoid fights

    and arguments with your fellow citizens such as taking an animal that has been caught in someone else’s trap or preventing a non-Jew from taking the produce that is set aside for the poor.

  2. Those things that you should do in order to prevent hostility and

    bad feelings between people such as lending utensils that have the ability to be used to transgress Torah laws but can also be used without transgressing such laws.

The first category of decrees should be part of every person’s moral and ethical code. The Torah should not have to inform you that taking an animal from someone else’s trap is not allowed. Nor should the Torah have to tell you that a poor non-Jew living in (where the laws of Leket, Shichecha and Peah apply) needs to be looked after. These laws are logical for any person and especially one who follows the Torah.

It is the second category of decrees from which we can learn the most. There is a tendency amongst religious people of all religions to become zealous and extreme in their pursuit of religious excellence. Their dedication to G-d can sometimes come at the exclusion of G-d’s creations. On a simple level, many people feel that they must cut themselves off from society in order to achieve religious perfection while at the extreme level, many people have been killed in the name of religion and mistaken religious beliefs.

The laws of the Torah must be adhered to and are of the utmost importance, and as mentioned in the ninth Mishnah, there are lines that cannot and must not be crossed. However, these two mishnayot are reminding us very clearly that Judaism requires us to try as hard as possible to ensure that G-d’s creations are not ignored by those who embrace His word.

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