Shabbat Table Talk
Parashat Ki Tetzei, Erev Shabbat 1st September 2017
Week of 27th August – 2nd September 2017
Torah portion: Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19 Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1-10
Parashat Ki Tetzei (When you go out…) holds the diverse collection of laws (mitvot) received at Moab as God’s chosen people awaited entry into the Promised Land. Contrary to the preceding two parashot (Re’eh and Shoftim) which concerns public officials and the nation as a whole (Hayim 1112), the commandments contained here speak of how each individual must act and behave - ‘when he goes out’ of himself - towards his family and properties, animals, his neighbors, particularly the marginalized ones including female prisoners of war, criminals and strangers. Repeated through the narration of laws and commands are the basic principles of why they are to act as commanded: that they would sweep out evil in their midst (Deut 21:21, 22:21-22, 22:24, 24:7), these things are abhorrent to the Lord (Deut 22:5 ,23:18, 24:4, 25:16), and that God may bless all their undertakings (Deut. 23:21, 24:19). The parasha winds down with the people being reminded of who they were, where they came from, (Deut. 24:18, 24:22) and what happened on their journey through the wilderness (Deut. 24:9, 25:17). They were strangers and a seemingly widowed and fatherless nation, yet they were led out, guided, protected and cared for. Now, they would be claiming an inheritance from the Lord. It would seem that as they prepare to enter into the land that God is giving them to possess, they are instructed to always place before them the knowing that God is in their midst and that core to their inheritance of the land is their relationship with God, one that would call on them to be in a new and different relationship with all and everything.
While performing and fulfilling a commandment usually calls one to be mindful, there is one particular mitvah in this parasha that is unusual in that it can only be performed as one forgets. (Hayim 1131) Yet, assurance of blessings abound as one gets to fulfill it: “When you reap a harvest in the field and forget a sheaf in the field, do not go back to get it. It shall go to the stranger, the fatherless and the widow --- in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings.” (Deut. 24:19) Plaut states that traditional commentators have discussed this at great length and have come to conclude that it is not so much about easing the burden of the disadvantaged but rather more about the molding of the character. (p. 1332) Yet wouldn’t it be true for all of the commandments wherein the individual and the nation as a whole is called to be molded and fashioned in the image of a God they are in relation with?
In the haftarah of Isaiah we read “For the mountains may move and the hills be shaken, but my loyalty shall never move from you, nor my covenant of friendship be shaken --- said the Lord, who takes you back in love.” (54:10) God’s assurance of an enduring and lasting relationship with God’s own is seemingly the difference that has started the call of the nation and the individual, to be different.
Reflection and Discussion: 1. How has your relationship with God come into your being in relation with everything and everyone around you? 2. How has God’s vow of loyalty and friendship made a difference in your life?
Bibliography: Lieber ed. Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary, Travel ed. (JPS New York 2004); Plaut, The Torah, Modern Commentary (UAHC New York 1981);
This week’s teaching commentary was prepared by
Sr. Weeyaa Villanueva, RNDM
Senegal, West Africa
Bat Kol Alumna 2010
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