Torah Notes Ki Tetze: “And another thing…”
This Torah portion is like the proverbial “kitchen sink.” As Moses is delivering his final address, it is as if his mind was on auto pilot…Oh yeah…don’t forget about this…and did I mention that.” Here is a short list of some of the one liners we have to pay attention to:
Beautiful captive women- Strangely, it is rather protective of the woman. There is a 30 day waiting period during which the fickle misogynist male captor might need to consider releasing her.
Rebellious child: Solution-stone the nasty kid. These days, execution is no longer an option but it is comforting to know that kids haven’t changed much over the millennia.
Rights of the first born: Cue the middle child eye rolling.
Accident Protection: The first building codes were created here followed by angry homeowner associations.
Returning Lost Articles- Long before Jews invented the legal profession and the concept of whiplash, Israelites pioneered the concept of Lost and Found which is why very few Huns or Mongols converted to Judaism.
Kidnapping- Not a good idea, ever.
Don’t turn the other cheek- The Torah has a list of peoples that done us wrong and why we should take our time forgiving them. Down with Moabites and Amalekites. Strangely, Egyptians don’t make the list because they once welcomed us in.
One of the cornerstones of this Torah portion is the treatment of animals. The rabbis state that one of the reasons Moses was chosen to lead Israel out of bondage was because of how he handled the runaway lamb that led him to the burning bush. Not only did Moses go after the lost little woolball with no sense of direction, he carried it back in his arms.
Two poignant examples are mentioned here. A mother bird has to be sent away before a nest could be disturbed so that she will not feel the pain of losing her babies. Nor could the mama and her bambinos be taken away together. Since newborn birds and hatching eggs aren’t fit to eat (ooh-gross), essentially the Torah sets up the understanding that it is best not to disturb the nest at all. There is also discussion about not putting animals of different strengths together on a yoke because the stronger one would be overburdened.
So, if we have to be nice to animals, maybe we also have to be nice to each other? Hmmm…do you think the Torah might have a hidden agenda? Hmmmmmm.
Shoftim- A Quick Run Down
Shoftim begins on a really high note calling for the judges to take their obligations very seriously. Not only should they act in a just manner but they had to string up their Nike’s and chase after justice. As the saying goes Justice, Justice, You Shall Pursue. When God says something twice, you better pay attention. Actually, if God says something once you might want to pay attention. Look what happened to poor Moses. He didn’t listen to God ONE TIME and after schlepping through the desert with a lot of complaining people for 40 years, did not get to enter the land.
The Torah portion continues with a rapid fire of directions like not destroying fruit trees when rampaging through enemy territory. Environmentalists love this one and why not.
There is a section about generals sending home warriors who have an expectant wife or have not seen their first crop. They also let soldiers who are afraid to fight go home too, which is a wonder that there was anyone left to go into battle.Another fun part of the parsha is giving directions to people who accidentally kill their neighbors for a place to run to for sanctuary. (apparently, accidental death must have been a thing back then.) Shoftim also makes it clear that if there is an Israelite king, he had to follow the law. The king was supposed to personally make a copy of the Torah to keep as AS reminders of his responsibilities and to strengthen his cartilage.
What can we learn from this portion? 1. Be sure you have a Bible in your house. If you have to dust it off, you know it’s been too long since your last glance. 2. Live by the spirit of the Torah which is to be fair and purposeful in your actions. Living by the Torah is the way to go.
As Rav Spike Leestein once said, Do the right thing, baby. Do the right thing.
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