February 11, 2021 / 29 Shevat, 5781 • Parshat Mishpatim
Issue 653
Dedicated in loving memory of Mrs. Miriam Friedman

When you see your enemy’s donkey crouching under its load…you must help [him]

Exodus 23:5

G-d gave us the Torah and its commandments for the benefit of our bodies as well as our souls. Nonetheless, since the body (our beast of burden, or “donkey”) naturally seeks its own comfort, it is likely to consider the study of

G-d’s Torah and the fulfillment of His commandments a burden. It may rebel (“crouch”), positioning itself as the soul’s “enemy.” Therefore, since for most of us, our body’s voice is louder than our soul’s, we are likely to initially view the Torah as an oppressive burden.

This only means, however, that we have not yet integrated the Torah into our lives. Rabbi Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidism, taught that we should not despise the body because of its natural attitude. Rather, we should work with it, strengthening its health while “educating” it to realize that accepting the Torah’s dictates is in its own best interest. Once we realize that G-d’s Torah and His commandments are the truest source of life, our bodies will view them as a gift, joining our souls enthusiastically in their fulfillment.

—from Daily Wisdom #1