When we reward mistakes

“You shall be holy people to Me; you shall not eat flesh of an animal that was torn in the field – to the dog you shall throw it”. (Exodus 22:30)

There is a profound insight here from the Daas Zekeinim M’Baalei HaTosafos. It was very common for people to have a dog that would guard their flocks. The verse is describing a situation where he let his master down by not preventing a wolf from attacking one of the sheep. Despite this lapse that might leave the master extremely upset, the Torah mandates the dog be “rewarded” with the remains of the sheep.

Normally, the dog wouldn’t receive such good food – and now it’s getting a rare treat even though he let his master down.

The truth is that this was a rare lapse. Day after day, the dog protects the flock and even puts its life at risk. A wolf would love a piece of him too. Normally, the dog is not given any special kudos for doing its job and it eats whatever scraps remain after all the people of the household have consumed almost everything.

In recognition for all the dog’s prior loyal and unflagging service – and for which it was never shown any special appreciation – it receives something special now.

So often, we take so much of what others do for granted only to complain when they make a mistake or don’t perform optimally. The Torah is teaching us a vital lesson here: The routine things that others do for us are not routine – they are often heroic and deserve our deepest hakarat ha’tov (appreciation).

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