Ki Tetzei 5769

Posted on March 23, 2011

by Bekah Hakimian

In this week’s parsha, Moshe continues the repetition of the laws by which Israel must live. These laws deal with a variety of topics, but most are concerned with moral values. A brief summary of the moral laws follows.

The following deal with Marital and family relationships: Women who are taken captive by the Israelites due to war must be treated humanely; men with two wives musty treat all their wives’ children equally; defiant sons are to be disciplined by their parents. The community intercedes if the parents are not successful. Also, if an individual is put to death for a capital offense, his corpse must still be treated with respect. The parsha goes to say all men and women must wear clothing appropriate to their gender. To conclude the moral laws, the Israelites are commanded to wear tzitzit on the four corners of their clothing.

The next set of laws deals with civil and criminal matters. Adulterers shall be put to death. A man may not marry his father’s former wife. Workers shall be paid on a daily basis. Finally, the Israelites must be honest in business dealings; all weights and measures are to be reliable. Ki Teitzei ends with the admonition, “You shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” This idea is so deeply rooted in Jewish tradition that many important enemies of the Jewish people came to be identified as “Amalekites.” The most famous of these is Haman.

In the introduction to the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides states that the total number of precepts in the Torah is 613. Two hundred forty-eight of them are positive and equal to the number of bones in the human body. The remaining 365 commandments are negative and equal to the number of days in a solar year. Maimonides traces this information to a Rabbi Simlai, a Palestinian teacher of the Rabbinic period. According to Maimonides, Ki Teitzei contains some 72 of these positive and negative mitzvoth. The first laws which this portion addresses deal with the taking of hostages as a result of war. Ki Teitzei means, “when you go out” (to battle).

Many of the mitzvot presented in this portion were meant to help establish a strong foundation for family life. In this next few weeks in particular, take the time to spend time with your families and loved ones and try to make personal goals of self-improvement before the High Holidays. These are the times to make your “New Years” resolutions and become better individuals, Jews, sons, daughters, etc. Shabbat Shalom!