This week’s parasha, Ki Seitzei, contains more mitzvot than any other parasha in the Torah. Among them are how a soldier is to treat a beautiful woman whom he captures in battle and wants to marry; how children inherit a parent’s wealth; what parents are to do with a rebellious son; the obligation to return lost items; marriages that are forbidden among certain people; how a person treats one’s employees, widows and orphans, and people who owe you money; keeping the camp sanitary to keep it holy; and many more.
Several mitzvot that fit the Scout Law are found at Deuteronomy 24:19-22. These verses command the Children of Israel to leave certain crops for the proselyte (a person who converts to Judaism), the orphan and the widow – bundles of grain that are forgotten in the field the reapers, grapes passed by while harvesting, and the tops of olive trees.
Verse 20, one of those about harvesting, has a special meaning. It says: “When you beat your olive tree, do not remove all the splendor behind you; it shall be for the proselyte, the orphan and the widow.” Here we learn that our job in providing for those who need help is not satisfied with things of poor quality – we must offer some of the best things to them. Such gifts of fine quality show respect for these neighbors.
This mitzvah reminds me of a quote in the Book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) written by King Solomon, 7:1, “A good name is better than precious oil.” The “good name” means a good reputation, which King Solomon says is better than precious oil because it was very valuable in ancient times. Giving the best we have to offer to our neighbors who need help is the kind of act that the community respects, which is what gives someone a good reputation.
As we prepare for the High Holy Days, we think of those in need. When we look to help them, remember that the Scout Law teaches us to be Loyal, Helpful, Friendly and Kind to our neighbors. As you think about those who need our help, what does it mean to give them our best?