Whose responsibility is it? - Ki Tetse

Thursday, 19 August, 2021 - 6:55 am

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When something unfortunate happens, the question immediately arises: Whose responsibility was it? What could have been done differently to avoid the tragic outcome?

During my studies to become a teacher, we learnt many laws and safety regulations decided by the Ministry of Education for the protection of the children, from the requirements of the school building and classrooms to the guidelines for recess and school outings. But they were not the first to think about it.

In this week’s Parasha Ki Tetse, G-d commands us to erect safety fences on our terraces, so that no one falls down and hurts himself. This Mitzvah includes many safety guidelines, such as having steady stairs in our home and anything else that may endanger someone. Our house needs to be a safe place.

The expression used by the Torah to explain this Mitzvah is strange. The person has not yet fallen but the Torah calls him “Nofel”, i.e the one who has fallen (Deuteronomy 22:8). Rashi explains that this is a person who had to fall anyway, because G-d had decided so. Nevertheless, it should not happen in my house, I should not be the one responsible for his accident.

This is generally the Jewish approach to life: on the one hand, G-d decides what will happen, on the other hand, we need to do whatever is possible on our part. G-d decides how much money we will earn, but we need to go to work. G-d decides who will become ill, but we need to protect our health etc. Yes, it is not easy to understand how these two sides coexist, but this is how it is. G-d is not limited by our logic, and this is how He decided.

Let us not underestimate the power that we have on our hands and the responsibility we carry towards the people around us. Let us act to fix the problems we encounter. If G-d made us notice them, it is because we have the power and responsibility to help change the situation.

This Mitzvah teaches us the Jewish approach to life. But we mustn’t forget to observe it on a practical level. Let’s go around our house and check if it is safe enough. Rails, plugs, sharp utensils, poisonous detergents… What can we do to make it safer?

Shabbat Shalom,


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