For the week ending 29 August 2009 / 8 Elul 5769

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 amitzvah 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.


The Sin Of The Cheese Danish

“An Ammoni or Moavi may not enter the congregation of G-d, even to their tenth generation, they may not enter into the congregation of G-d forever. The reason is they did not come out to meet you with bread and water on the way, when you were leaving Egypt.” (23:4-5).

What was so terrible about Ammon and Moav not coming out to meet the Bnei Yisrael with bread and water on their way out of Egypt? Just because they didn’t rush out to meet the Jewish People with ‘cheese Danish and coffee’? Is that such a terrible sin?

Even an Egyptian may convert and, after three generations, marry a Jew. And their ancestors used Jewish children for bricks in their palaces and mausoleums! Just because of a lack of hospitality, an Ammoni and a Moavi can never join the Jewish people?

The reason is that the Ammoni and the Moavi peoples owe their very existence to the Jews. For it was Avraham Avinu — the father of the Jewish People — who rescued Lot from being killed when Sodom was destroyed. Lot was the father of Ammon and Moav. Were it not for Avraham there would never have been an Ammoni or Moavi nation. When the people of Ammon and Moav didn’t come out to greet the Jewish People, the descendants of Avraham, they showed the essence of their character — lack of gratitude.

Ingratitude cannot be allowed to infiltrate the Jewish People, because to give thanks — to admit that one is beholden — is the essence of being Jewish. The word Yehudi is from the root to give thanks, to be grateful. When looking for a spouse this can be a yardstick for us: If chronic ingratitude makes a person unfit as a marriage partner, then, necessarily, the greatest ‘catch’ is someone who is always grateful.

An ingrate is impossible to make happy. But someone who is always grateful, who sees everything as a gift — that’s the easiest person in the world to make happy.

That’s the ideal spouse.

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