Parshas Ki Teitzei
The happy couple had just been married in the village where the bride’s family lived and were now heading back to the groom’s house, along with a donkey that was a wedding gift.
The newlywed husband trying to be thoughtful said to his bride, “Please, you ride the donkey and I will walk on foot.”
They caused quite a stir when they arrived at the first town. A lot of people came out to enjoy the sight of the newly married couple. The husband heard someone say, “Look at this guy married just a few days and his wife is already in charge. She rides and he walks.”
This irritated the husband, so he told his wife to please switch, and let him ride the donkey and she should walk. A short while later when they passed through another town he overheard a local say, “Look how unfortunate the bride is, she married a guy who rides the donkey and makes his wife walk.”
This made the groom feel even worse. So he decided that they would both ride the donkey. When they arrived in the next town they overheard people commenting this time, “Poor donkey forced by such cruel owners burdening him with the weight of two people instead of one.”
Now completely frustrated they both got off the donkey and walked to the next town. They hoped that they had finally made the right decision. Then they heard people buzzing about becoming the focal point of gossip and derision. It seemed the buzzing was about how unintelligent the newly married couple is, they have a donkey and don`t even bother to ride him.
This week’s Parsha talks about if a person finds an ox, a sheep, a donkey, or a garment of a friend, he should return them to their rightful owners.
Chassidus explains this as a metaphor. The ox represents ambition and drives to succeed. The sheep represents flexibility and willingness to follow in life. The donkey represents apathy or indifference and the garment represents betrayal. Since the Hebrew word for clothing and betrayal have the same letters, they just are pronounced differently. The Torah is coming to teach us that each person has inside of him these four elements and he must return them in his lifetime to their own proper place.
Use your Ox Ambition and Drive to learn Torah and keep the commandments. Do not use it to cause pain to others in seeking retaliation or to inflate your ego. Learn to use your Sheep, your flexibility in life, to be able to modify your decisions according to people who are more knowledgeable, insightful, and truly care for your wellbeing. However, do not become flexible and bend in directions swayed by public opinion. Do not second guess yourself after making a sound decision like what happened in the story we opened with. Develop an internal toughness and self-confidence to the path of righteousness.
Use your Donkey to be apathetic to hot-headed people, to not lose your cool when you are in a heated situation, like a toddler in a temper tantrum. Finally, the only way to kick bad habits is to one day is to betray them by deciding that enough is enough. Sweeping away your old negative behaviors is the only way of discovering who you really are. A beacon of light onto the nations.
Have a wonderful Shabbos!