“You shall not watch your fellow’s ox or sheep gone astray and hide yourself from them. You must certainly bring them back to him.” (Deuteronomy 22:1)
An earlier passage (Exodus 23: 4-5) reminds us that this obligation applies even if the owner of the lost animal is our enemy.
The Torah is adamant in telling us how we must treat our fellow humans, even those we do not like.
An anecdote told about the famed 19th century scholar and founder of the Musar* movement, Yisroel Salanter, illustrates this idea:
It was the Eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. They synagogue was packed full of worshippers waiting for Rabbi Salanter to chant the Kol Nidre*. But the rabbi was nowhere to be found.
The rabbi’s absence shocked the community elders because he always arrived at the synagogue well in advance of the time to begin worship.
A hastily organized search party looked everywhere and finally found the rabbi, leading the stubborn calf of a gentile neighbor back into its stall.
“Rabbi,” the leaders demanded, “Where have you been? Don’t you know everyone is waiting for you in the synagogue to chant the Kol Nidre?”
“Yes,” Rabbi Yisroel answered. “I am sorry, but I simply could not attend even to the sacred duties of the Day of Atonement while this poor, helpless animal wandered about lost.”
Though a strict observer of Jewish law Rabbi Salanter allowed no religious principles to come before the obligation to help other human beings.
What a wonderful example for all of us today!
Musar: The term musar is found in Proverbs 1:2. It means “discipline,” and its study is gaining new popularity today.
Kol Nidre: “All Vows.” Prayer recited only once during the year to begin worship on Yom Kippur.