In this parashah (Ki Tetze 22:1-4) the Torah instructs us that if we see that a fellow Jew’s ox or sheep has lost its way, we may not turn a blind eye. Rather, we must take the necessary steps to return the animal to its rightful owner. Even if this requires effort on our part, we must ensure that our brother’s property is returned to him.
The Chafetz Chaim derives an important lesson from here. If we are commanded to return a lost animal to its owner, then, all the more so, we must return it if it is carrying cargo. And if its cargo is valuable, then we must surely do so. If its load is not just expensive but also indispensable, such as medicines that are to be used to save people’s lives, then we would definitely say that they must be returned to their owner.
If all this is incumbent upon us, when seeing our brother’s physical assets or even his life in jeopardy, how much more so is it imperative upon us to help our brethren re-track when we see them straying from the correct path in life, and endangering their eternal existence. We must do all we can to help return their spirituality to them. By helping our brethren who are straying to return to their roots, we are enabling them to have a meaningful stay in this world and a good portion in the next world.
There are many different life situations which may cause people to stumble and stray from our rich and meaningful way of life. It may be due to persecutions, exiles, difficult or stressful situations, a lack of education and example, or even an off-putting experience, or a bad or empty way of life that may have been practised. It could even be that levels of commitment slackened with time and eventually dwindled to nothing. Most certainly, at the end of the day, everyone is responsible for themselves, and must ensure that they live a life committed to the Torah and its mitzvot. However, each one of us also bears the responsibility to do their utmost to impress upon and encourage every fellow Jew to live a life committed to the Torah, its mitzvot, values and ways. This is every Jew’s duty towards his brethren.
Our generation bears witness to a worldwide surge of people looking for meaning in their lives. Fed up with the emptiness of just feeding their physical desires and pleasures, people understand that there must be more to life than that. Physicality is only a means so that our bodies can keep on going, but our main goal should be to sustain our real essence – our souls. Our souls are nourished by keeping the Torah and its way of life, and when a person is exposed to the taste and sensation of living with Hashem, his whole life changes.
I feel very privileged to be involved in the movement to encourage people and teach them about the real way of life. In all the decades of my involvement, I have never encountered any antagonism, only interest and good will. The biggest kindness that I, as a committed Jew, can do for others is to pass on the truth of the Torah’s way of life to my fellow brethren.
In our generation, where there is so much divine inspiration for people to “return home,” let us give of ourselves and help to return lost souls to their rightful owners.