There are No Choices with Moral Values!
Elul 9 5780 בלוג כִּי-תֵצֵא, ט’ אלול תש”פ
In Parashah Ki Tetze Moshe randomly presents seventy-four injunctions as if he is trying to remember everything that he wanted to say before he left. I challenge you to read them and see to which of the Ten Commandments each is referring. Some scholars say that these injunctions are obsolete for today since they pertained to the people who lived 3500 years ago. I disagree since we can still glean and apply the principles from them which are timeless.
The parashah begins with how the soldiers were to treat women who were captives of war. Unlike the horrendous stories we have read about how foreign armies have raped women throughout the ages, here in the Torah, when a woman was taken captive if the Hebrew soldier desired her, he was not allowed to rape her, he had to respect her. He had to take her to his home and allow her to mourn the loss of her parents, her past life, for one month during which he would see her as she really was, no makeup, no fancy hairdo or no beautiful nails; then if he no longer desired her, he was not allowed to mistreat her rather he had to let her go wherever she wanted. She herself had the right to choose to marry him or not. In Hebrew, marriage is a “brit”, a covenant between two people, not one-sided. In the Torah, when a father gave his daughter to be married if she refused the young man, she could not be forced. In the same way, the Creator made a brit with Israel when He presented His Commandments to them and they said, “we will do, and we will obey.” The Creator protected women along with the integrity of His people Israel. Rape in Israel was unheard of.
Moshe also speaks about protecting animals, the cultivation of crops and even the protection of the environment. He tells us not to plant two types of crops together as one might weaken the other; we could not allow two types of animals, one weak and one strong to be yoked together to protect the weaker of the two and to not wear out the stronger, and not to mix types of textiles. He warns us not to take the eggs until the mother bird flies away or as in the last parashah, to cook a calf in its mother’s milk. All these injunctions show us how much the Creator cares for even the tiniest of creatures and wants us to care for His creation. The Creator wants us to begin with ourselves because if we do not, how can we care for anyone else. When you see a young person mistreating an animal, I can assure you, that person will grow up to mistreat a human being because they haven’t learned to respect living things. All these injunctions teach us that we cannot shame others, but we need to respect their dignity, even animals.
We are supposedly more civilized today than in ancient days yet that is not the reality. We see a booming sex trade in the world even in Israel. If our nation is involved in this, what can we expect from the rest of the world? The United Nations was created to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves, but they have become corrupt while the rest of the world covers their eyes and ears. We see a revolution for human rights happening in the US by those who are destroying the property of others in the belief that they are “entitled” to take whatever they want from others. People are being abused as they blame others for their lot in life. Instead of acting and working for what they want, they demand that it be handed to them on a silver platter out of a false sense of entitlement.
Many people have fled their countries looking for a better life, yet they have brought the unjust ideals of those nations with them and want to impose them upon us. Moshe told Israel that before they could take over the new land, they had to clean the pollution from the land which involved the ideas, the practices that could harm them. That took hard work. The Creator doesn’t want us to be spoiled. He wants us to serve others instead of looking to be served by others, to remember the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner…those who cannot take care of themselves.
In ancient Israel, women could not provide for themselves as they can today. Divorce was very devastating for a woman; if she had no family, she could be left homeless. The Torah provided for a “get”, a document given to the woman allowing her to divorce and giving her financial provision. A woman was not allowed to be mistreated.
Our society has lost its moral compass today. We have accepted the lie which confuses freedom with being libertine. On every front, there is some group shouting out for liberation, yet they forget that with freedom comes responsibility. Each radical group not only wants their idea of freedom for themselves, but they also want to impose it upon everyone. At the same time, our governments are imposing values upon us that are contrary to the values of the Torah while the majority remain silent! Do you think that you live in a free society? There are those who speak up and disagree with the world’s values, but slowly we are watching how quickly they are being silenced. As Moshe said, we need to prepare ourselves to be strong as we enter a new world; strong mentally and spiritually and not allow others to kidnap us to follow their ideals. It is not easy, but we do not need to please the world, we need to please our Creator.
These days before the High Holidays are called Yamim Norayim, נוראיים ימים the terrible or awesome days when we are called to recognize God’s mercy and love for us. During this period, it is always good to do a personal evaluation of our past year, not financially but how we have grown as a human being, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Ask yourself these questions: Am I a better person? Have I been following false gods or am I presentable to the Creator? Am I for our Creator or against Him? There is no neutral ground? Am I being too polite when it comes to standing up for what is true? Have I become too comfortable? There are no choices when it comes to moral values. Either they are good for everyone or they are good for no one.