Make a Fixed Time for Study

עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Ki Tetze – What’s it all about (#Torah)

Posted by rabbiart on August 20, 2010

Needless to say, Ki Tetze has a lot of mitzvot. For some, the meaning and purpose is clear, easy to understand, and goes down easy with the “modern” reader. For example, the obligation to return a lost object to its owner, and the companion obligation to not pretend we don’t see the lost object that needs returning to its owner.

Some of the mitzvot have both obvious (the pshat) and more subtle meanings, like not to put a stumbling-block before the blind. To do literally that would be so cruel. How about leaving valuables in plain sight in your parked car? That is also putting a stumbling-block before the blind.

Some of the mitzvot read like they made sense “back then” but don’t make sense now. Women wearing men’s clothing, and the reverse. In a society wear women wear slacks, jeans and shorts, who is to say if those are men or women’s clothing. If you’re Jewish and a rookie professional athlete and your team’s hazing ritual is to make the (male) rookies wear dresses, will you be able to say “I don’t do that” and make it stick.

A couple of the mitzvot derived from this parsha are anachronistic at best and downright troubling at worst; I made a brief explanation of that in a prior post.

At first blush the mitzvot of Ki Tetze seem to be all over the map, simply a compendium of all sorts of different obligations applicable at different times and circumstances. At closer examination, most – if not all – of the mitzvot have to do with relationships between individuals and the construction of a just and fair society. A couple should not be intimate – in the biblical sense – except in a sanctified relationship. A warrior who captures an attractive woman must subdue his impulse to take her. A person in a dispute with his neighbor must still return lost possessions and help with fallen burdens. Day laborers should be paid promptly. A hired worker should be fed by his employer, but shouldn’t eat on his employer’s time when he is suppoed to be working. Foreigners and aliens should be integrated into our society (OK, after a couple of generations!). Debtors should be treated with dignity, and if they need a pawned object or collateral for life’s basic necessities, these things should not be withheld. When we make a promise, we should not be late in fulfilling it. When we harvest the fruits of our labor, whether agriculturally or commercially, we should think about and leave something for those in need.

Even animals should be treated properly and with compassion. Animals of unequal strength should not be yoked together. An animal – a kind of employee – should not be muzzled when working in the crop fields.

Perhaps the Haftorah this Shabbat provides the theme for our Torah reading. The Rockies may crumble, Gilbralter may fall (the Gershwin brothers by way of Rabbi Mark Hurvitz), but HaShem’s kindness, covenant of peace and compassion will never be removed from us. And we should never remove it from each other.

Shabbat Shalom


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