For the week ending 28 August 2004 / 11 Elul 5764

Parshat Ki Tetzei

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The Torah describes the only permissible way a woman captured in battle may be married. If a man marries two wives, and the less-favored wife bears a firstborn son, this son's right to inherit a double portion is protected against the father's desire to favor the child of the favored wife. The penalty for a rebellious son, who will inevitably degenerate into a monstrous criminal, is stoning. A body must not be left on the gallows overnight, because it had housed a holy soul. Lost property must be return. Men are forbidden from wearing women's clothing and vice versa. A mother bird may not be taken together with her eggs. A fence must be built around the roof of a house. It is forbidden to plant a mixture of seeds, to plow with an ox and a donkey together, or to combine wool and linen in a garment. A four-cornered garment must have twisted threads tzitzit on its corners. Laws regarding illicit relationships are detailed. When Israel goes to war, the camp must be governed by rules of spiritual purity. An escaped slave must not be returned to his master.

Taking interest for lending to a Jew is forbidden. Bnei Yisrael are not to make vows. A worker may eat of the fruit he is harvesting. Divorce and marriage are legislated. For the first year of marriage, a husband is exempt from the army and stays home to make rejoice with his wife. Tools of labor may not be impounded, as this prevents the debtor from earning a living. The penalty for kidnapping for profit is death. Removal of the signs of the disease tzara'at is forbidden. Even for an overdue loan, the creditor must return the collateral daily if the debtor needs it. Workers' pay must not be delayed. The guilty may not be subjugated by punishing an innocent relative. Because of their vulnerability, converts and orphans have special rights of protection. The poor are to have a portion of the harvest. A court may impose lashes. An ox must not be muzzled while threshing. It is a mitzvah for a man to marry his brother's widow if the deceased left no offspring. Weights and measures must be accurate and used honestly. The parsha concludes with the mitzvah to erase the name of Amalek, for in spite of knowing about the Exodus, they ambushed the Jewish People.


Skin Deep

"And you will take her as a wife" (21:11)

In recent years, our society has seen an enormous increase in anorexia and other food related diseases diseases that were almost unheard of thirty years ago. Plastic surgery now accounts for a sizeable percent of all operations. More and more, we live in a world that stresses the importance of appearance. The way things look is more important than what they are. Appearance is more important than essence.

Interestingly, this shift of focus from essence to appearance has been paralleled by a large increase in juvenile crime and teenage social dysfunction.

This should not surprise us, for the Torah taught us this connection some three thousand years ago.

In this weeks portion, we learn that a Jewish soldier may marry a foreign woman captive taken in battle. The Torah then goes on to speak about the rebellious and wayward son. Rashi tells us that these two subjects are juxtaposed to teach us that even though it is permitted to marry a captive, the result of this union will be a rebellious and wayward son.

Ostensibly, a delinquent son would seem to be a punishment for taking this woman as a wife; however, we can also understand Rashi as a prediction rather than a punishment.

Someone who is so preoccupied with the external look of things that he is prepared to bring into his home a woman who is totally foreign to his culture and beliefs will be passing on to his son the message that the way things look is more important than the way things are; such a value system leads inevitably to producing offspring with a warped sense of what life is all about.

  • Sources: Avnei Nezel in Mayana shel Torah; thanks to Rabbi C. Z. Senter

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