For the week ending 17 September 2016 / 14 Elul 5776

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.


Pleading Poverty

“Neither an Amoni nor a Moavi may enter the congregation of G-d… because of the fact that they did not greet you with bread and water on the road when you were leaving Egypt, and because he hired Bilaam ben Beor against you to curse you.” (23:4)

“I’d really love to help you, but I just don’t have the money right now.”

Pleading poverty must be one of the oldest excuses in the world.

Why was it necessary for the Torah to give two reasons why Amon and Moav are perpetually excluded from the congregation of G-d? Wasn’t their hatred sufficiently apparent in their failure to greet the Jewish People with bread and water after the Exodus? Were it not for Avraham there would never have been an Amon and a Moav in the world at all. It was Avraham who saved Lot, their progenitor, from Sodom. Their failure to greet the descendants of Avraham, the Jewish People, after the Exodus, revealed their loathing.

Amon and Moav had an excuse. They could have said, “We would love to have rushed out and brought food to the Jewish People but we just couldn’t pick up the tab for a couple million people. Sorry about that.”

However the lie is given to that excuse, because they certainly found enough money to hire the greediest and highest paid sorcerer in the world, Bilaam, to curse the Jewish People.

So if you can find the bucks to bring in the star wizard of his generation, you could have certainly found bread and water for the Jewish People.

  • Source: based on Mayana shel Torah

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