Immediately after the great revelation at Sinai, the Torah proceeds to teach the civil laws that govern the interactions between people in day-to-day life.

One of the topics discussed in this week’s Torah portion is the laws of the guardian who agreed to watch another’s item. The Torah introduces four The degree of liability is determined by the division of benefitcategories of guardians, who have different levels of liability if anything happens to the item. The degree of liability is determined by the division of benefit derived by the owner of the object and the guardian.

The first category is the “unpaid guardian.” Since he receives no benefit from watching the item, he is not liable if the object is lost or stolen (unless he was negligent).

The next two categories of guardians are the “paid guardian” and the “renter.” Both receive some benefit (either payment for guarding the object or the right to use the object) but give as well (either the guardianship of the object, or the money paid for the right to use it), and therefore they have some liability. They are obligated to pay in a case where the object was lost or stolen, yet not if the object was destroyed by an event that was completely out of their control.

The fourth guardian is the “borrower,” who receives all the benefit, as he uses the object without paying for it, and his liability is therefore the greatest. The borrower is liable to pay even if the object was destroyed by an event outside the borrower’s control.

The monetary laws of the Torah are more than just utilitarian laws that allow for a functioning society. Just as with all other parts of the Torah, the monetary laws contain deep psychological and spiritual truths. Thus, the laws of the four guardians also represent four states of mind in our relationship with G‑d, our soul and the purpose of creation.

A healthy relationship is one in which both parties benefit from the relationship. Yet, a relationship is more than a “win-win” arrangement, where each party is involved in order to receive that which they consider beneficial. While the parties may have entered the relationship for personal gain, in order for the relationship to be more than a transactional business-like arrangement, it must develop from the original cost-benefit analysis and mature to include commitment and selfless devotion to the other.

The Torah tells us that G‑d created Adam and “placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to guard it.”1 G‑d entrusts us with a spiritual soul and places us on this earth with a mission to “work it and guard it,” to preserve and increase the goodness on this earth. We, the guardians, receive benefit from our work on behalf of G‑d, for G‑d blesses us and provides us with our material and spiritual needs. Yet, just like in human relationships, there are different levels in the relationship with G‑d. On one end of the spectrum is a person who is primarily interested in receiving the “benefits” life has to offer. On the other end of the spectrum is the person who is an “unpaid guardian.” He is in love with G‑d to the point of being completely altruistic; his motivation is to serve G‑d and do the right There are different levels in the relationship with G‑dthing for its own sake.

In a wholesome human relationship, we can and should benefit from our relationship, yet we must also experience selfless devotion to our partner. The same is true in our relationship with G‑d. At times we will be a “borrower,” motivated primarily by our own needs and desires. But we should always seek those moments when we transcend our own ego and act as an “unpaid guardian,” motivated primarily by the desire to devote ourselves to our beloved.