University of Truth

613 Commandments!

#37. To Relieve a Neighbor of His Burden,
and Help to Unload His Beast.

(Exodus 23:5)   

recorded Mar02 2017


“If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldst forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.”

Why help your neighbor?  Shall you assist from the goodness of your heart, which is weak, fallible, flighty, fickle, and often wrong?  Shall you assist from your belief in karma, that to do good receives reward, and to do evil reaps punishment?  Shall you assist from the peer pressure of your friends and family, who look down upon you for ignoring the plight of your fellow man?  Shall you assist when you have kinship or closeness with your neighbor?

All the preceding reasons are understandable, and some noble, but fail to work when, (1) your heart is against it, (2) your belief in karma is put aside for emotion, (3) your attention to peers is overwhelmed by your love of self, or (4) your  neighbor is not always loveable.  Today's commandment overrides those issues, reasons, and excuses.

Note that when you would forbear to help, you shall surely help anyway.  This is not a cheerful pep talk to motivate, this is a requirement and duty, which when ignored accumulates a sin.

Note the first caveat, that when you see the beast of burden unable to do the work, you shall help. The commandment is specific, and is not necessarily analogous to other situations, though many would say it is more general and broad than that.

Does the commandment mean that you will help the animal to stand?  This seems to be the thrust of the commandment: that you shall help your neighbor get on with it.  What if you are physically unable? What happens if the mule kicks you? These are case-law questions to discuss, and to explore through Talmud.

Does the commandment mean that if the beast of burden is unable, you shall help your neighbor by replacing the beast of burden to some extent? Shall you lend him yours? Shall you help him purchase another? Shall you yourself become as a pack animal?  More discussion and Talmud.

Certainly, the commandment does not mean you shall berate your neighbor for overloading the animal. That does not help your neighbor, as the commandment clearly dictates, but rather helps the animal and feeds your own ego.

Does the commandment apply to modern times?  Let's say that, rather than a mule, your neighbor uses a pickup truck to move things from here to there.  If the pickup truck fails to start, or if it has a flat tire, or if the truck seems overloaded, must you help your neighbor?  If a pickup truck in transit loses its load, are you required to stop and help pick up the pieces?

Note the second caveat, that you will help the one that hates you.  Shall you help only one who hates you? Naturally not, for you shall not forbear to help a friend. 

What is the meaning of "hate" here? If your neighbor is a pagan or atheist, shall you help him?  The question is, why do you live in a place where pagans and atheists are tolerated?  If you do live in such a place, yes, you are commanded to help the pagan or atheist, for many reasons.  What if your neighbor hates you for personal reasons of jealousy, spite, animosity, and so forth?  No matter, you are commanded to rise above your fear of confrontation. Even if a fight ensues from it, you are commanded to help, and to help yet again even after such a fight.

What if you hate your neighbor but he does not hate you?  The commandment is not so specific that it permits such an exclusion. You shall help your neighbor in this situation also.

One might argue that the commandment is too narrow, that it is enough to "love thy neighbor." The first counter-argument is, define "love thy neighbor." Unless we have narrow commandments to define it, we shall choose to love our neighbor based on whims, desires, and human forces only. Today's commandment is one of many in Torah which provide intrinsic definition. The second counter-argument is, no commandment may be neutralized. Torah is eternal, as it is written. Torah is non-amendable, neither to subtract from nor add to, as it is written. We are commanded to obey the commandment.

One cannot neutralize a commandment and be a Torah Jew. One may claim to be a Jew of a different sort, perhaps a Reform Jew, or a secular Jew, but not one who is the "light of the world" or the "salt of the earth." For there is no light without Torah Law restraining the evil of men, and there is no salt to season Torah without explicit commandments to define broader themes.

One also cannot neutralize a commandment and be a Christian. Jesus Christ said he did not come to change any part of the Law, not a jot or tittle. If any part of the Law is changed by his coming, whether through his teachings, crucifixion, resurrection, or ascension, it makes Christ a liar. Even if you say Christ is God and may do as He pleases, Jesus still lied. Is God permitted to lie? Does God lie? You can't have it both ways, that Christ can tell a lie and still be perfect.

Furthermore, Jesus said that whoever keeps and teaches the least commandment is called greatest in heaven. To neutralize a commandment, whether by actively teaching against it or passively undoing it through actions, does not cause one to be called greatest, but rather to be called least (Matthew 5:19).

Such pick-and-choose apostasy against Torah is quite confusing. Christians cite as necessary the Ten Commandments, and commandments on tithing and charity, and commandments forbidding certain sexual practices; but on the other hand, Christians will not agree that eating certain foods, or having tattoos, is forbidden or makes one unclean. Reform Jews abstain from pork as a sign of solidarity with their ancestors who endured much persecution for obeying this commandment; but Reform Jews do not believe male homosexuality to be a sin because to prosecute it is "oppression."

This inconsistency in keeping the Law, this apostasy, this blasphemy, this rebellion against God, is what keeps pagans and atheists in business.  It certainly kills societies, and a good argument can be made that it kills civilization. For such reasons, Jesus does not command to establish a church of sinners, but rather to cleanse the church of sinners (Matthew 18:15-18), which are those who would neutralize even the least commandment. For if we do not verify all of the commandments, we give no reason to follow any.

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