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Torah Dialogue: Ki Teitzei

08/27/2020 03:00:47 PM


Rabbi Edward Davis

KI TEITZEI     Deuteronomy 21:10
Compiled by Rabbi Edward Davis (RED)

1.    The Wayward Son. The Torah explicitly states that we execute a rebellious son who steals from his parents and disobeys them. The Mishnah in Sanhedrin restricts the application of this law, limiting it only to a son during the three months prior to attaining puberty. No wonder the Talmud states (Sanhedrin 71a) that “there has never been an adjudicated case of a wayward and defiant son, and never will be.” I believe therefore that here the Torah is warning parents of the danger involved in not being an instructive and caring parent. In the beginning of Parshat Mattot, when the Torah tells us the law of annulling a girl’s vow, our Sages state that (again) this Torah law is very limited, for the window for the application of this law is quite small: the girl in question is about 111/2 years old. Younger than that and she is a minor and her words amount to nothing. And older than twelve, she is an adult and her words are binding upon her. This paragraph of the wayward son can be compared to the case of Yishmael who is expelled from Avraham’s home. Was Yishmael a wayward son? Clearly he is not, for Hashem saves him from death. The Midrash states that after expulsion, Avraham traveled into the desert to talk to his son (with Sarah’s permission) more than once. He is still a caring parent. (RED)

2.     Male clothing shall not be on a woman, and a man shall not wear a woman’s garment, for anyone who does is an abomination. (22:5). Rashi comments that this law is to keep the sexes from mingling and lead to promiscuity. Similarly the Sages were concerned with men being excessively personally grooming themselves and being like a woman. We are living in a very liberal society when it seems that each day there is another group of people who are taking a liberal stance in opposition to the Torah. Interpreters go further: Targum Onkeles wrote that the Torah is prohibiting a woman to dress in a man’s military outfit. Targum Yonatan says that the Torah is prohibiting a woman from wearing a Tallit or Tephillin. (The Talmud in Eruvin 96 wrote that Michal, the daughter of King Saul put on Tephillin each day, and the Sages didn’t object and did not reprimand her.) All these interpretations aim at the same point: the sexes should be separate and “Viva la Difference.” Each person should be proud of the way they were born. Any attempt to alter our sex is an abomination. (RED)

3.     The Oznaim LaTorah (Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, 1881 Lithuania - 1966 Israel) compares the Halachah Shilu’ach HaKan, chasing away the mother bird before taking its eggs (22:6), to the Halachah of not slaughtering the mother animal and her offspring on the same day. The former Halachah is only applicable to birds, and the latter Halachah is only applicable to animals. But birds differ from animals. Animals give birth to live animals which look like its mother. The bird lays eggs and has to sit on them and exhibits compassion on items that do not look like them at all. Each mother (animal and bird) cares and sacrifices herself for its offspring. A further note that I offer is a distinction between animals, birds, and humans. Only in humans do we care for grandchildren. Take a dog, for example. The dog gives birth to puppies and cares for her offspring and recognizes them. When that puppy grows and gives birth to puppies, the granddog does not recognize its grandpuppies. Only humans have this love for its own species. We see in our grandchildren our future. (RED)

4.     “You shall not wear combined fibers, wool and linen together” (22:11). Rashi wrote that this is a prime example of a Chok, an incomprehensible Mitzvah that we will never understand. The Ramban explains further: Hashem created different species in this world, and we are not allowed to mix them or to alter Hashem’s designs in the world. Of course, the selection of which species are distinctive is totally in Hashem’s hands. The Rambam, in his Guide for the Perplexed, relates the prohibitive mixture in Shatnez, as he does many other times, is to keep us away from idolatry. Idolatry’s religious leaders used to wear a mixture of linen and wool. A simpler answer is one that the Chizkuni (13th century France, Chizkiyau ben Mano’ach) offers: The Kohanic clothes contained Shatnez, and this law prohibits a non-Kohen from wearing Kohanic clothing. The fact that we cannot pinpoint the exact nature of this law emphasizes our inability to understand fully every detail of Torah law. (RED)

5.     “A Moabite and Amonite may not enter the congregation of Hashem” (23:4). A Moabite and an Amonite may convert to Judaism but may not marry a born-Jewish woman. He may marry, for example, a woman who converted to Judaism. Throughout the years, non-Jews interpret this verse to prove that Jews don’t like non-Jews. To bolster their statement they state that Jews say each day in their prayers a Berachah blessing Hashem for not making us Goyim. But the Noda B’Yehudah (Rav Yechezkel Landau 1713-1793, Eastern Europe) points out: we do not dislike Goyim. We bless Hashem for not making us a woman, and nobody interprets that to mean that we do not like women. After all, we marry one! These Berachot refer solely to the obligation to perform   Mitzvot. The Goy, the non-Jewish slave, and the woman are not obligated to observe all the Mitzvot of the Torah. So, we, who are obligated, praise Hashem for the privilege to perform all the Mitzvot. About the Moabite and Amonite: since Sancheirev mixed up the nations of the world, we cannot identify a Moabite or an Amonite. All Goyim are the same, and each is welcome to convert. (RED)

6.     Grounds for Divorce. (24:1). There is a difference of opinion in Jewish law on this subject. Beit Shammai said that the husband may divorce his wife only if he finds her to be immoral. On the other side of the spectrum Rabbi Akiva said that the husband is allowed to divorce his wife if he finds another woman who is nicer or prettier (Gittin 9a). The Talmud attempts to bring the two opinions together, Beit Shammai is referring to a first marriage, while Rabbi Akiva is talking about a second marriage. To understand the Gemara, wrote the Vilna Gaon, one needs to look at the verses of the Torah (24:1-4). A man marries a woman and later decides to divorce her because he found something immoral about her, giving us the impression that one doesn’t need “solid” grounds for a divorce. Another Talmudic opinion is that the husband may divorce his wife if she spoiled his dinner. The bottom line is that Judaism embraces “no fault” divorce, which was many years ahead of its time. (RED)

7.     Remember Miriam (24:9). The Torah instructs us to remember Miriam who was punished with Biblical Leprosy when she spoke Lashon HaRa about her brother Moshe. The Targum Yonatan wrote on this verse that Miriam had suspected that her brother was acting incorrectly (based on the Midrash Sifri). According to this line of thought, Miriam’s sin was that she suspected Moshe of doing something improper. She was not punished for Lashon HaRa. Therefore, the Torah is reminding us to be careful in two areas: a) not to speak Lashon HaRa, and b) not to suspect a fellow Jew of improper behavior. The upshot is that Hashem will intervene (in some fashion) on how we treat other human beings. Hashem is an active participant in our lives. Actually, we should realize that Hashem cares about us and is involved in our lives. We should consider ourselves to be in Hashem’s presence at all times, and we should really think about what we say before opening our mouths. (RED)


    The Jewish people have suffered from an insecure feeling for the future.  With the constant cloud of anti-Semitism that is always hovering about, the Jew is extremely competitive in his fight for survival.  Each ray of sunshine is met with caution because we know how easily our hopes can be dashed.  We fear redemption because any sense of redemption is usually proved to be premature. No redemption has been complete and therefore we fear them to be false or at best, temporary.  (Radak on Isaiah 54:4.)  The great fear that the prophet sees is that the Jewish people will develop a redemption complex.  Even when it is actually beginning, the Jew will have a difficult time bringing himself to believe that it is happening.  Too many unfulfilled dreams will breed a heart that is incapable of dreaming and hoping.  In my opinion, this is partly the reason why the Yeshiva world has not come to grips with the modern State of Israel.  The State does not fulfill all of the promises of redemption and therefore the Yeshiva world does not comprehend the State's existence on a theological level.  (RED)

Wed, October 28 2020 10 Cheshvan 5781