Ki Tetzei – 5780

By: Susan Moger

Ki Tetzei means when you go. This portion is filled with laws and regulations to establish moral and legal order of the land the Israelites will enter. There are more mitzvot in this parshah than any others, 74 of the 613 commandments are found here. The parshah also includes acts of tzedakah.

The reading begins with saying that if you take captives in war and an Israelite saw among them a beautiful woman that he wanted to marry, he should bring her to his house, have her haircut, nails trimmed, give her new clothes and spend a month lamenting her parents. So capture her, bring her home, give her an extreme makeover and some time. Then he could marry her, however if he no longer wanted her, he had to release her and not sell her as a slave. So this is giving a woman some rights and her freedom if he no long wants her.

A famous mitzvah is that if you come across a bird nest with eggs of new borns with the mother sitting on them, take the young but let the mother go in order that you fare well and have a long life. There is compassion toward the mother bird, that she must not witness her eggs being taken.

Judaism shows compassion to animals. The Talmud calls this mitzvah the lightest of all commandments. Why such a great reward, long life, for a light mitzvah? The commentary on this is that all mitzvot have equal reward that is not easy to calculate.

The Torah places humanity above animals. It mandates respect for all of G-d’s creatures, forbids causing unnecessary suffering to animals and idealizes the state of peace and harmony among all living things. Nefesh chayah, living soul, refers to animals as well as to humans.

The parshah mentions that when loaning money and you take an item as security to repay the loan, if it is a cloak, you must return it to the person overnight so that he is not cold and this is an act of tzedakah.

The Torah mentions that every act is of immense significance. No act is trivial. When you observe kashruth, even when you speak, you can say words of encouragement or malicious gossip. Each act is important and we have many decisions daily about how to act and therefore opportunities to do mitzvot and acts of tzedakah or not.

The Garden of Eden had perfect balance and harmony among people and all living creatures. Maimonides said in the laws of repentance that every person should consider him or herself as perfectly balanced between good and bad and the world is perfectly balanced between good and evil. According to the sages, the next action you do, however trivial, can tilt the whole world to the side of good and life or the side of evil and death. We see that today so often from those that ignore the warnings of covid and carelessly expose themselves to being in large groups and not wearing masks, they may be superspreaders, and society as a whole is suffering the consequences.  So each act that we chose to do or not do has a potential for doing good and fulfilling a mitzvah and doing acts of tzedakah from which all can benefit.


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