For the week ending 1 September 2012 / 13 Elul 5772

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 returned. 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.


One Message With One Voice

"If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son, who does not listen to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother…" (21:18)

Three of the essential ingredients in raising happy, well-integrated children are “The Three F’s” — Firm, Fair and Friendly.

Firm: Children need to know where they stand. They like nothing more than clearly defined limits. A parent who makes a demand and then backs down gives a child a sense of insecurity, for the child never knows exactly where the boundary is. Children push the limits precisely because they wish to know that there are limits. When we are firm, we give our children a defined world in which they can establish their relationship to the world at large rather than a vast expanse of frighteningly unknown possibilities. Of course, as parents we should therefore limit our demands to those things over which we are prepared not to back down. We must choose our battlefields wisely.

Fair: A child has a sense of what’s fair and what’s not. True, children are somewhat biased in their view of what fair consists of, but they are the first to recognize uneven-handed treatment. As parents, we must be unstinting in guarding against any kind of favoritism, either to siblings or to our own agendas.

Friendly: The correct proportion of positive interaction to negative interaction should be 80/20. In other words, every interaction that requires disciplinary words or action should be balanced by four times as many positive and loving experiences. In addition, however exasperating children can be, it's always more effective to oblige them in a friendly manner. When they need correction, it should be done in a friendly tone of voice. Shouting certainly makes one feel better, but it’s nearly always counterproductive in the long run. It shows weakness and insecurity.

Apart from The Three F’s, there’s a fourth ingredient that is equally as important.


Consistency is necessary not just in the behavior of each parent, but between the parents themselves. We learn this message from this weeks Torah portion:

If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son, who does not listen to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother…

A child is considered to be in the halachic category ofwayward and rebellious onlyif he does not listen to the voice of his father and his mother. Among other things we learn from this verse is that both the father and the mother must have similar voices. The deeper meaning of both the parents having similar voices is that they must both speak with one voice, that they should not contradict one another in what is expected both of themselves and the child. The message that is broadcast in the home must be consistent, for without this keystone in child-rearing the child cannot be considered at fault.

  • Sources: based on Rabbi Noach Orlowek

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