Holiness, Righteousness and Justice

Exodus 22:17-23:13

Following the laws of damages above, the Torah continues with a series of laws which promote holiness, righteousness and justice in the community. These include eliminating abominations such as idolatry and sexual immorality, treating the unfortunate with care and respect, and preserving the integrity of the judicial system.


Included in this section is an overview of the laws of the Sabbath and the Sabbatical year as they protect the poor and underprivileged. Just as we rest on the seventh day of the week to commemorate God resting on the seventh day of creation, so too we are commanded to let the land rest once every seven years. This law, in practice today, requires that we refrain from planting, plowing or harvesting for a full year. The produce which grows on its own during this time may be eaten, and is considered holy. The Israel Bible points out that both the Sabbath and Sabbatical year have a similar message: just as the Sabbath teaches us that the world and everything in it belong to God, so the Sabbatical year teaches that God is the source of our economic success. The Hebrew year 5775, which roughly coincides with 2015, is a Sabbatical year.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Exodus 23:4-5 commands one to return one’s enemy’s lost animal and unburden his suffering animal. Do you think this applies even to one’s enemy, or particularly to one’s enemy? What is the difference? What is this law trying to teach us?



Comments ( 8 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bibleā„¢.

  • Torah is trying to teach us in this place our relation towards the enemy which is also a neighbor. As much as you are inclined to help his lost donkey or his suffering animal so must be your relation towards your enemy to help him, bring him home. Our relation towards animals is also mentioned but is of secondary importance.

  • Kenneth Osterman

    Teaching compassion. If a beast is lost or burdened, the law is saying return it or lighten its load. If we have an enemy, there is a level of hatred between parties. Hatred is a burden. If we do not try to address this burden of hatred then we in turn make the burden more sure and heavy upon us as well as our enemy.
    We are to take the first step at every reasonable opportunity to alleviate burdens. Easier said then done.

  • Jesse

    I think a perfect example of this is the parable of the “Good Samaritan”. I find it ironic that the ones who were supposed to know the law best avoided the man who was beaten but it was the “enemy”, the Samaritan, that lifted the burden of this person, paid for his healing, and paid for room and board.

  • Diana Brown

    When I read this Torah portion, I thought how the Lord God made the way for us to deal with one another. He literally laid out every circumstance and gave us the proper procedure to build a civil society according to His Plans. Choice allows us to study His Ways or not. If we choose, He will empower us to do the hard things like….love your neighbor and be kind to your enemies. When you have an enemy and you can feel empathy for their lost animal, you do obey the Lord in a precious way by helping to find and return his lost property. We hope the kindness will produce a softening of their hearts. We must remember, they also have a choice to make here….Will I accept the kindness of my enemy and seek to live in peace with him? Or will I just take my lost animal home and wait to fight another day?

  • Magda

    I think this applies particularly to one’s enemy and it seems as if the text says this clearly. TO bring someone’s stray ox or ass back to him is no small job and will be time-consuming too. To do that for your friend may feel acceptable, helping a friend out and looking after his interests, but to do it for an enemy, may feel particularly strenuous and is definitely an act of self-less kindness. I believe here Torah teaches us to do chesed without favour of person. In Jer. 9:23 He says: “For I am HASHEM Who does kindness, justice and righteousness in the land, for in these is My desire – “. I believe this is also the Spirit of all of His Torah – and kindness comes first.

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