Painting by Pepe Fainberg.
(photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)
RABBI ALEXANDRI said: Two donkey drivers who hated each other were walking along the road. The donkey of one of them lay down. His fellow passed by and saw that he was lying down under his burden. He said: “Does it not say in the Torah ‘If you see the donkey of him that hates you lying under its burden… you shall surely raise it with him’?” What did he do? He turned back and loaded [the animal] and accompanied [his enemy]. He began to converse with him. He loosened [the straps] a little from one side, lifted [it] from the other side, and strapped on that side until he had reloaded [the donkey] with him.The result was that they made peace with each other. The other said: “Didn’t I think that he was my enemy? See how he had mercy on me when he saw me and my donkey in dire straits.” The consequence was that they entered an inn and ate and drank together. They developed affection for each other. (Midrash Tanchuma) Virtually everyone knows what it means to have an enemy in one’s life. If one engages with others, if one cares about issues and takes a stand, some relationships will sour. What seems a given in the international arena has its echo interpersonally as well. The Torah assumes that enemies are a painful part of one’s journey in life. In perhaps the classic passage offering a recommended pathway, we find in Exodus: “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of him that hates you lying under its burden, you shall forbear to pass by him; you shall surely raise it with him.”
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