Competitive Comparisons

Tzvi Ilan ben Gita Update: Fantastic progress! He’s walking (with assistance) and talking (with some difficulty). He is doing intensive rehabilitation and we look forward to more progress every day. Keep the prayers going.

Deuteronomy Hizkuni: Ki Tetze

Competitive Comparisons

There is something healthy about pitting oneself against an opponent, striving, pushing to reach one’s potential, and via the competition reaching new heights of personal performance.

On the other hand, there is always the danger of comparisons, of feeling better or worse than someone as a result of the competition. The Bible repeatedly compares the performance of people (see Kings, where each descendent of King David is held to his standard of devotion). However the Torah does seem to draw the line when there is a major difference between who is being compared.

Amongst the plethora of commandments in Deuteronomy, there is at least one that looks out for inter-species relationships and potential competition:

“Thou shalt not plow with an ox and a donkey together.”

Deuteronomy 22:10

Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach (Hizkuni) gives a number of reasons as to why God should care and legislate such a particular commandment.

One of Hizkuni’s reasons is that God wants to spare the feelings of the donkey. One cannot compare the strength of an ox to the strength of a donkey. To have them work side by side, doing the same work, plowing the same field, would embarrass the donkey. In order to spare the feelings of the donkey or any other weaker animal, the Rabbis legislated that animals of different species shall not plow, pull or otherwise work together.

The Torah recognizes that not all animals are created equal and situations which highlight the difference to the detriment of one of the parties need to be avoided. For creatures that just don’t have the inborn capability to compete with each other, it is plainly unfair to stand them side by side.

However in areas where we are equal or closely so, it seems it is fair game to ask, “If he can do it, why can’t I?”

May we only engage in healthy competition – and win.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

To my children starting their school year. Go get ‘em.

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