| Parshah |

Bring in the Goats

Hashem still does good to people who do wrong. We need to emulate Him and do the same


“And you should warn them about the laws and the Torah and you should make known to them the way that they should go and the deeds they should do.”

(Shemos 18:20)


hen Yisro asks Moshe Rabbeinu what he does, Moshe replies, “I teach them chukim and Torah” (Shemos 18:16). Yisro answers with this pasuk above and adds the words “make known to them the way they should go.”

The Gemara says this refers to mitzvos bein adam l’chaveiro. Why didn’t Moshe himself say this originally? (Rav Yisrael Reisman, Shiurim al Chumash).

My husband and I both grew up out-of-town, where your nearest neighbor was a backyard away — perfect distance for borrowing eggs but still maintaining privacy.

Then we moved to our apartment building. Originally built to house 17 families, it mushroomed into 25 families and counting, as many apartments were divided or had additions that housed young couples. Baby carriages, bicycles, and boxes crowd the entranceway and the stairwells. Still, we try to get along with everybody and somehow maintain a semblance of distancing in our bottom floor apartment.

Moshe knew that Klal Yisrael had the natural middos of modesty, compassion, and chesed. So he didn’t think it was necessary to teach them about bein adam l’chaveiro. But Yisro pointed out that there’s more to the mitzvah than a natural inclination for it.
There are two sources to the mitzvos of bein adam l’chaveiro. The Rambam (Hilchos Aveil 14) says the source is the pasuk: “Love your friend like yourself” (Vayikra 19:18).
There’s another Rambam (Sefer Hamada 1) where he brings a second source: “You should go in His ways” (Devarim 28:9). Just like Hashem has compassion and does chesed, so should we.

There was one family that lived in the building for a few years who had a bunch of boys. Blessed with many sons myself, I could definitely relate to the energy and noise level that a group of boys generate.

But these guys took it to a new level. They were entrepreneurs and constantly coming up with new ways to make some cash, often utilizing the building’s hallways or stairwells for their epiphanies. One Pesach season it was a bike repair shop, where spinning wheels and handlebars made the building’s entrance a veritable obstacle course. Another time they wanted to salvage appliance parts, and an old washer and dryer stood sentry by their front door. Yet we managed to hold our tongues… until the petting farm.

Moshe assumed that Klal Yisrael would naturally do mitzvos bein adam l’chaveiro because that’s their teva. But Yisro was pointing out that these mitzvos only come naturally if your neighbor is a nice guy. Then you love him like yourself. But if he’s obnoxious, you won’t want to love him.
Yisro was telling Moshe, you have to teach them to do chesed based also on the second source of bein adam l’chaveiro — to act like Hashem.
Hashem still does good to people who do wrong. We need to emulate Him and do the same.

My kids are big petting farm fans, and I have no objection to a few chickies, rabbits, or turtles sitting politely in a neighbor’s garden. Yet these kids were taking it up a notch. They had a goat, yes, a goat, snipping grass in their little garden off their dining room, and several grown chickens and a rooster. If you’ve never been woken by a rooster before the crack of dawn, then you probably won’t understand our dismay at this profusion of pets.

If you’re constantly being jolted by said rooster’s calls throughout the day, plus you have a goat bleating in your ears when you open your windows, then you can understand why we finally needed to have a serious talk with the proprietors of this petting property. (I’m not even mentioning the turtles who fell into our garden and managed to crawl into our dining room.)

My husband politely, but firmly, informed the family that the zoo had to go. Immediately. No discussion and no exceptions. But the boys were so disappointed. They’d planned to make a mint off this latest venture.

So in the name of shalom, we bought them off. We paid them a price that was appropriate for kids and then breathed a sigh of relief at the blessed quiet that once more descended on our home. The whole experience added a new dimension to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” And to love thine own children who are still actually quieter than goats and roosters!


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 879)

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