Pisqa’ 222

Pisqa’ 2221


When you see2 your rival’s ass crouching beneath its burden,

and you refrain from aiding him—

you must exert yourself to aid him” (Ex.23:5).


Is it possible to say that

the rule applies even if you are a full mil,3 away?

The Teaching states:

“When you encounter4 your enemy’s ox or ass” (Ex.23:4).

The verse specifies encounter

should I infer that

the usual sense of the term is meant?

The Teaching states:

When you see” (Ex.23:5)—

[suggesting a distant sighting].

So, how do we understand this?

Sages defined the distance as a ris5

equivalent to one-seventh of a mil

and then some.6

[One can “see” the animal from the distance of a ris; an “encounter”

requires only a few cubits].7


“When you encounter your enemy’s ox or ass gone astray,

make every effort to return him” (Ex.23:4).

We turn out to learn about transgressing both

a prescriptive commandment and a proscriptive commandment.

You must exert yourself to aid him” (Ex.23:5)—

[The prescription is to] help unburden the ass.

“You shall not see your brother’s ass fallen in the road, while you ignore him.

You must labor to get him on his feet” (Dt.22:4)—

[The proscription is against] over-loading the beast:

Words of R. Judah b. Bethyra.8

“You shall not see your brother’s ox” (Dt.22:1)—

this is a proscriptive commandment.

Yet, elsewhere He states:

When you encounter your enemy’s ox or ass” (Ex.23:4)—

This is a prescriptive commandment.

“Your brother’s ox” (Dt.22:1)—

I might infer only that

the rule applies to your brother’s ox!

On what basis to I include

even your enemy’s ox?

The Teaching states:

“Your enemy’s ox” (Ex.23:4)—

[help the animal] no matter who owns it!

If so, why does it specify “your brother?”

Actually, it teaches that

the point of the Torah is

to defeat the rebellious urge

[which can even challenge brotherly love]!9


“Or his sheep driven off” (Dt.22:1)—

however they might have been scattered.

On this basis you can teach:

How is a lost object defined?

If he found an ass or a cow

grazing in a path, that’s no lost object!

But an ass with its burden in disaray,

or a cow running through a vineyard—

Now, that’s a lost object! 10


While you turn a blind eye to them” (Dt.22:1)—

sometimes you do turn a blind eye,

and sometimes you don’t turn a blind eye.11


For example?

If the passer-by was a Priest

and the cow was in a graveyard

[which Priests may not enter, lest they contract

the uncleanness of corpses];

or, if the passer-by was old,

and chasing cows is beneath his dignity;

or, if the cost to the passer-by [of retrieval] is greater than

[the value of the cow] to its owner—

[in all these cases,] the passer-by

is exempt from the rule.

This is why the verse states:

“You turn a blind eye to them” (Dt.22:1)—  

sometimes you turn a blind eye,

and sometimes you don’t turn a blind eye,

[one’s obligation depends upon the facts of the case].12 


“Make every effort to return them” (Dt.22:1).

If he returned the sheep, and she escaped;

he returned her again, and again she escaped

—even five times!—

he is obliged to return her,

for it is said:

“Make every effort to return them to your brother” (Dt.22:1)—

[including multiple efforts].13

Now, if he returned her to a spot where

others could look after her,

he needn’t attend her needs any further.

But, if she was stolen

or lost under his care,

he would be obliged to replace her.

In fact, the passer-by is obliged

to replace the [lost] beast until she

actually enters her owner’s property, 14    

as it is said:

“Make every effort to return them” (Dt.22:1)—

[until they have in fact been successfully returned].

  1. H:233-234;JN2:130-131.
  2. Heb: tir’eh; root: r-‘-h.
  3. Roughly equivalent to 1200 yards.
  4. Heb: tifg`a; root: n-g-`, “to strike against.”
  5. Roughly 150 yards.
  6. //T. BM.2:25.
  7. // Mechilta Ishmael, kaspa’, 20.
  8. F:255. n.3, observes that this unit is based upon Ex. 23:5 and is closely paralleled in Mechilta-Ishmael. In his view, the passage, which is also unattested in many versions of Sifre, is foreign to the original work.
  9. So, too, Pisqa’ 225.1.
  10. =M. BM.2:9.
  11. Cf. Mechilta Ishmael, kaspa’, 20.
  12. Cf. Mechilta Ishmael, kaspa’, 20 and Pisqa’ 225.3.
  13. =M. BM.2:9.
  14. //T. BM. 2:23.