How do we build a community? How do we connect with other people, who we don't necessarily know well, who we don't speak to all the time? How do we belong? These questions form a locus of this week's Parsha We read this week about the mitzvah of burying the dead, about returning stolen property, about helping someone reload their animal after it dropped a load, and about the mitzvah to lend to the needy, among many other commandments. These mitzvot are not just ordinary rules about not being mean to others. They have a far more critical purpose.
Another mitzvah featured in this week's Parsha is the prohibition on lending at interest, which only applies to other Jews. The Ramban asks why we cannot lend at interest. Isn't it our money? If everyone agrees to the terms, what's wrong with charging interest? He answers that it depends. If it is a purely commercial transaction, there would indeed be nothing wrong. However, you wouldn't lend money to your brother or sister at interest. That would be a betrayal of the fraternal bond. The Torah wants us to see every Jew as our brother or sister. We are all part of one big family, and we should act that way.
As such, we should never lend to each other at interest. We should always stand ready to help, whether it's reloading an animal or offering to lend them something without even being asked. And when, unfortunately, one of us passes away, it's the communities responsibility to ensure that they are accorded the honour, respect, and dignity which they deserve. Community means so much more than people coming to the same place, or living near each other. It means that we're here for each other; we care about each other. It means, in a certain way, that we're family.