Kenneth Cohen

Forgetfulness and Character Building

Parshat Ki Teitzeh has seventy-four laws from the Torah. Most of these are designed to teach us to be ethical and compassionate in all of our dealings.

The commandment to return a lost article appears to be simple and clear-cut. The Sefer Hachinuch explains that forgetfulness is a very common human trait. Therefore, when one returns something lost or forgotten, it brings that person great joy in getting back what was lost.

We also learn from this law, the concept of לפנים משורת הדין, going beyond the letter of the law. There may be certain requirements and time constraints in terms of when we are allowed to keep that which we have found. Nevertheless, we need to be extra kind and diligent in finding the rightful owner.

Rabbi Twerski, who was also a psychiatrist, felt that the Mitzva of השבת אבידה, returning a lost article, is designed to refine one’s character. He truly learns how to hold someone else’s property as dear as his own.

This is a great example of where if we delve deeper into the Torah text, there are great lessons to be learned.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at