Ki Teitzei: Language and Translation

Devarim/Deuteronomy 22:1-3, variously translated:

22:1) If you see your fellow’s ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it; you must take it back to your fellow. 22:2) If your fellow does not live near you or you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home and it shall remain with you until your fellow claims it; then you shall give it back to him. 22:3) You shall do the same with his ass; you shall do the same with his garment; and so too shall you do with anything that your fellow loses and you find: you must not remain indifferent [lo tuchal l’hitaleim]. (JPS, Plaut)

you shall not be able to ignore it. (Alter)

you shall not hide yourself. (Stone)

R. Moshe Alshich (16th Century Safed, student of Joseph Caro) explains that this passage emphasizes physical inability “you can’t” [lo tuchal] “hide oneself” [l’hitaleim] as a result of mitzvah performance as moral training:

At first he fulfills a religious obligation, in response to the imperative of the Torah. Subsequently the mitzvah, as a result of constant practice, endears itself to him so that he performs it willingly and spontaneously. In our case, the result of carrying out the mitzvah in relation to an ox or an ass that has not strayed far will lead to willingness to restore an animal that has strayed far, and you will look after it till your brothers seeks after it. The habit of returning the property of others will then extend to inanimate objects….then you will know that the observance of the mitzvah is, once and for all, firmly implanted within you, so that whatever the circumstances, “thou canst not hide thyself.” (translation is from Nehama Leibowitz’s Studies in Devarim/Deuteronomy)

See Source Materials for full citation information.

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