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Tis but a Scratch

09/08/2022 12:33:09 PM


My brother and I once took on the task of washing my parents’ car. It was a pleasant Sunday morning, we grabbed the sponges and rags, filled up a bucket with soap and got to work. The car wasn’t terribly dirty, but it did have some rust in some places. Wondering if the rust could come off, my brother and I discovered that you could polish the rust a little with some steel wool. Interestingly, the steel wool also worked really well at removing the grime and hard-to-remove dirt from the other places of the car as well. So, after a lot of scrubbing and elbow grease, we had a super clean car. The only problem was the numerous scratches that were everywhere (read: EVERYWHERE) on the car. When we traded in the silver car back to the dealer, the agent insisted that the car was gold.

Parshat Ki Tetzei has some wisdom that would have been helpful to my brother and me. In the portion, the people are commanded that when they build a new house, they are required to put a parapet around the roof “so that you do not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone should fall from it” (Deuteronomy 22:8). Whereas nowadays, the only time we are on the roof is to get down a stray Frisbee or to fix a clogged gutter, in the ancient near east, houses were designed so that you could catch a breeze on the roof and hangout with the family and friends. Not wanting anyone to fall and get hurt, the Torah prescribes putting a fence around the edge to prevent a tragedy. The Torah is concerned about something that might happen; something the owners of the house should be concerned about. Unlike other laws that deal with how one should act in the here-and-now, this law of the parapet requires someone to think ahead and imagine the consequences of their actions. If only my brother and I had similarly thought ahead about the consequences of using steel wool to clean a car. 

As we go through our days, we are often so preoccupied with our actions we sometimes forget to consider the consequences of our decisions. We find a solution to one problem, only to fail to think about the other challenges that might arise from that course of actions. What would it look like if we were more careful to think about what outcomes might result from our deeds? What mistakes could be prevented if we only took a more measured and considered approach? As the High Holidays quickly approach and we continue to reflect on our mistakes, perhaps we can also think about which of our mistakes could have been averted if we didn’t act with such a narrow focus and attention. And if we can remember the results of brash behavior, maybe it can remind us to slow down and be a little more considerate when we make decisions in the year to come. 

Shabbat Shalom

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784