Blog Ki Tetze Elul 14 5778 בלוג כִּי-תֵצֵא, י”ד אלול תשע”ח

There are 74 regulations of the 613 mitzvot in this portion Ki Tetze, “When you go out”, making it a very important parashah when examined from the perspective of application for our lives today. We all have a private life and how we live it is our business, but the Creator is interested in how we are in public (when we go out); in how we care for others around us such as those less fortunate than we are, in how we dress and even in how we treat animals. We are living in times when it has become very difficult to speak out about what the Torah is teaching us. The culture of rape and abuse of women is the rule in many parts of the world. There are terrorists who rape and sell women as sex slaves. It is well known that soldiers at the end of WW2 raped the women in the countries where they were welcomed as liberators. The Torah teaches the Israelites to do the opposite. When a soldier would find a girl who he lusted over in a conquered country, he had to bring her home, allow her to mourn for a month and then if he still wanted to, he could marry her. He had to treat her as one of their own with respect and honor. The world without Torah is a barbaric one.

I have seen very religious people who are so fanatic that they behave as if they were untouchable and degrade anyone who is not like them. In contrast, the Torah teaches us to treat even our enemies humanely. I have also worked with religious workers who showed themselves to be wonderfully eloquent and benevolent people in public but behind the scenes they were the opposite, laughing at the gullibility of those who supported them. The Creator is asking us to have one face for everyone. Some of us have a bad temper but when we lose it, we can’t blame others, we have to make it right. Pretending that we don’t have it while making our homes a living hell is far from what the Creator wants us to do.

Another aspect of Ki Tetze, “when you go out” is that we are not only to be good with our favorite people. Obviously, we need to distinguish between those who are good and bad, and our values need to be at a higher level because of Who we represent. This begins with caring for the most vulnerable in society such as the woman who is not wanted by her husband who needs to give her, her freedom. Today in certain Jewish settings, a man can keep a woman captive by not giving her the get (Jewish writ of divorce) simply because he doesn’t want to pay for it. Torah deals with this and we, who follow Torah need to speak out against this type of injustice. Whenever we remain silent, we are part of the problem.

Another story teaches about the man who has two wives, one loved and one unloved. He needs to give his first son his double inheritance, even if he is the son of the unloved wife. In today’s world this translates as us protecting the one who is less likeable demonstrating that Torah always stands for justice.

Now we look at the “ben sorer b’moreh” בֵּן סוֹרֵר וּמוֹרֶה, the rebellious son who is brought to the elders who need to make the decision whether or not stone him to death. From this illustration we learn that it is easy to blame the son but if he is not guided properly from birth or disciplined, the parents are at fault. Mishlei (Proverbs) teaches us that if we do not correct our children, it is because we hate them. Today there is legislation that parents and teachers no longer have the right to discipline their own children. This has created a generation of children who are out of control, going totally against the order of the Creator.

The problems of this “advanced world” can be attributed to the lack of Torah. We should not always be literal in our application of Torah, however, the morals and principles are eternal and our only hope for the function of a healthy society. Our society will be judged by how we treat the least among us. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity no matter what is their level of education or their status. That is why we were taught to treat our slaves properly. If we find something that is lost, we are responsible to care for it until we can find the owner and return it. Today is the expression holds “finders keepers, losers weepers”. This is not Torah.

Today women’s lib and woman power are in the forefront. The truth of Torah is that these are not the issues that need to be addressed rather doing what is right, what is just in each situation. Men and women were created equal, not one superior to the other. The Creator completed His creation with the woman who is the only one who can bring life to this world. We as men have the responsibility of protecting and respecting women. In Chapter 22 we read about not mixing wool and linen and that a woman is not to wear the clothing of men nor men to wear the clothing of women. The picture here is that we are not to confuse the roles of men and women. This brings lack of clarity, causes chaos and confusion. Equality does not change the fact that we have been given different roles

Moshe Rabenu wants us to have only one face, i.e. who we are in private is who we are in public; to do what is right, to be defenders of those who cannot defend themselves. Mishlei Proverbs 31: 8-9 says that we have the obligation, the responsibility to defend the defenseless, to speak for the one who cannot speak for himself. It is sad that the poor who cannot afford a good lawyer do not receive justice. We as followers of the Torah do not have the right to remain silent wherever we see injustice taking place. “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Execute true judgment, and show mercy and compassion every man to his brother;” Zechariah 7:9