Parasha for the Week: Ki-Tetze Deuteronomy 21:10 - 25:19
Haftarah for the Week: Isaiah 54:1 - 10
Apostolic Writings: Mark 7:9 – 23
The Torah describes the only permissible way a woman captured in battle may be married. If a man marries two wives, and the less-favored wife bears a firstborn son, this son’s right to inherit a double portion is protected against the father’s desire to favor the child of the favored wife.
The penalty for a rebellious son, who will inevitably degenerate into a monstrous criminal, or for some commentators who acted to interrupt the relationship with G-d, worshiping idols is stoning. Among the laws listed in this parasha are:
1) A body must not be left on the gallows overnight, because it had housed a holy soul. 2) Lost property must be return. 3) Men are forbidden from wearing women’s clothing and vice versa. 4) A mother bird may not be taken together with her eggs. 5) A fence must be built around the roof of a house. 6) It is forbidden to plant a mixture of seeds, to plow with an ox and a donkey together, or to combine wool and linen in a garment. 7) A four-cornered garment must have twisted threads - tzitzit - on its corners. 8) Laws regarding illicit relationships are detailed. 9) When Israel goes to war, the camp must be governed by rules of spiritual purity. 10) An escaped slave must not be returned to his master. 11) Taking interest for lending to a fellow believer is forbidden. 12) The people of Israel are not to make vows. 13) A worker may eat of the fruit he is harvesting. 14) Divorce and marriage are legislated. For the first year of marriage, a husband is exempt from the army and stays home to make rejoice with his wife. 15) Tools of labor may not be impounded, as this prevents the debtor from earning a living. 16) The penalty for kidnapping for profit is death. 17) Removal of the signs of the disease tzara’at is forbidden. 18) Even for an overdue loan, the creditor must return the collateral daily if the debtor needs it. 19) Workers’ pay must not be delayed. 20) The guilty may not be subjugated by punishing an innocent relative. 21) Because of their vulnerability, converts and orphans have special rights of protection. 22) The poor are to have a portion of the harvest. 23) A court may impose lashes. 24) An ox must not be muzzled while threshing. 25) It is a mitzvah for a man to marry his brother’s widow if the deceased left no offspring. 26) Weights and measures must be accurate and used honestly. And finally the parasha concludes with the mitzvah to erase the name of Amalek, for, in spite of knowing about the Exodus, he ambushed the people of Israel.
“Ki Tetse – Parasha’s Title”
The name of the Parasha, Ki Tetzei means “when you go out” (Deuteronomy 21:10) but the particularity of the word Tetse is that it is written in the singular as if the Torah speaks to a single person going out. Reading the verse we discover it is about going to war: “When you go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem your God hands them over to you” (10). Going to war normally takes an army or many divisions and soldiers, Why does the Torah here use the singular and not the plural? According to many commentators, the text wants to speak about unity. War can be won only if God’s people are united. The Torah is telling us, if we have unity and are as one when we go out against our enemies, then even though our enemies are very numerous, you will be victorious as easily as if they were just one.
The importance of unity for accomplishment applies not only during times of war against an enemy. It is just as necessary during times of peace. When a group of people will work on any project with a spirit of togetherness, they will accomplish much more than if they would each be doing things as separate individuals.
“Positives and Negatives”
Acccording to the count of Maimonides there are 74 positive and negative mitzvot in this parasha. However as Rabbi Hirsch says: “Parashah shoftim dealt with regulation concerning the general affairs of the nation, regulations which were needed now that the nation was about to settle as a state in its own land. The parashah ki-tetse sets forth additional groups of mitzvot intended to regulate private relationships, such as family life and business dealings. Israel imminent decentralization and the beginning of its civic life may give occasion to various excesses. Therefore, here especially, Scripture emphasizes those laws intended to promote respect for the law of justice, loving kindness, and moral sanctity among the individual members of the nation, who will now be left on their own.” These considerations are important, this parashah gives us important family laws, some laws of kindness, holiness in marriage, Sanctity of the army camp, humanitarian laws… All these laws helped Israel to survive in a difficult world full of immorality, wars, and all kind of diseases.
“Protecting Animal Lives”
The Torah states, “If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young.” (Deuteronomy 22:6). What this mitsvah teach us? The environmental aspect of this mitzvah is obvious, if human beings had followed this rule during the last centuries, we would not have extinguished so many species of animals in the world. Only the people of Israel followed this rule and it was not enough to save them from extinction.
However, there is more in this law, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld asked, “Can a person catch a bird once it is flying? Of course not! However, there are mother birds who are so concerned about the welfare of their children that they stay with them and do not leave them alone when a hunter comes along. Because of her devotion, the mother bird falls right into the hands of the hunter. It turns out that the hunter would want to take advantage of the mother’s compassion for her babies. Therefore, the Torah orders a person to send away the mother. One has no right to utilize her positive trait of mercy in order to capture her.
All the more so, we should not try to take advantage of another person just because he is softhearted. There are people who are very compassionate and whenever they hear that someone has a difficulty, they do whatever they can to help. In monetary matters they do not like to argue or quarrel and easily give in to the demands and requests of others. Do not utilize their good heart to take advantage of them in either financial matters or in taking up their time and energy by asking them to do things that you would not ask others to do or you don’t want to do yourself.
The Torah continues “You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long.” (Deuteronomy 22:7) Why does the Torah promise a good and long life for fulfilling this mitzvah? The Ramban (Nachmanides) explains that this mitzvah will implant in a person the attribute of empathy and compassion. Acting in a compassionate manner will enable you to feel empathy.
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1 – 10
Today we are reading the text from Isaiah 54, and particularly verse 1. This verse has been quoted by Rabbi Shaul who then gives an explanation. It is a long text, but it is necessary to read it in order to understand the text of Isaiah. (Galatians 4:21-31). We would like to confess here that we have read this text many times, and we were always shocked and even hurt that this text compares Yisrael to Hagar and not to Sarah, because it is clear in Genesis that the son of the promise, Isaac who will become the ancestor of Yisrael, is the son of Sarah, not Hagar. Genesis is also clear that Hagar was the rejected wife. Even though Hagar was married to Abraham, she was divorced and sent away with her son Ishmael who then became one of the ancestors of the Arabs and later of Islam. Suddenly reading in the Apostolic Writings that Yisrael is represented by Hagar was therefore difficult to understand. We began to understand this text of Galatians 4 only when we went back to Isaiah 54 and studied this text to which Rabbi Shaul was referring. Rabbi Shaul knew the Tanach very well—he was a doctor of the law; Therefore, because of his education and erudition we should listen to what he has to say about the texts of the Tanach.
So let us try to understand Rabbi Shaul’s reasoning. He has clearly identified these two women of Isaiah 54:1 as Sarah and Hagar. The desolated (divorced) wife, Hagar, represents Yisrael, and the married wife, Sarah, represents the kehilah (church). It seems that Rabbi Shaul is considering Isaiah 54 as a parable or an illustration of Abraham’s family. It is clear that Abraham had two wives. The first one was Sarah who traveled with him from the very beginning. She was by birth a relative of Abraham and then became his wife when he married her. Hagar, however, was a second wife, given to him as a maid-servant by the Pharaoh of Egypt – that is why she is called an Egyptian (Genesis 16:1). In the book of Genesis, Hagar was not Abraham’s concubine but his wife (Genesis 16:3).
Thus, if we come back to the text of Isaiah 54, it is written, “For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married one,” (Isaiah 54:1) – there are more blessings (children) for the desolated (Hagar or Yisrael) than for the married (Sarah or Yeshua’s kehila). The text then continues to comfort the desolate woman or Yisrael: “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed. Nor cringe, for you will not be disgraced. For you will forget the shame of your youth . . . . For your Maker is your husband —Hashem-Tzva’ot is His Name— the Holy One of Yisrael is your Redeemer. He will be called God of all the earth. ‘For Hashem has called you back like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of one’s youth that is rejected,’ says your God. ‘For a brief moment I deserted you, but I will regather you with great compassion. In a surge of anger, I hid My face from you a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,’ says Hashem your Redeemer.” (Isaiah 54:2-8). If we follow the allegory of Rabbi Shaul, we understand this text in the context of Abraham’s family. Abraham has a wife, Sarah, who was barren, thus he married another wife, the Egyptian Hagar, who was a young woman and Sarah’s servant, in order to have children. But after Hagar gave birth to a boy Ishmael, Sarah then gave birth to Isaac, the child of the promise. Sarah then asked Abraham to send Hagar and her child away. After the death of Sarah, Abraham took another wife: Keturah (Genesis 25:1). What is very interesting is that the Jewish tradition identifies Keturah with Hagar. God continues to love His people, as compared with Hagar. We are delighted by the compassion of God that never ceases: “For a brief moment I deserted you, but I will regather you with great compassion.” (54:7). This text is an affirmation of the everlasting and unconditional love of God for Yisrael (54:8).
Apostolic Writings: Mark 7:9 – 23
In our Parasha we still have a long list of rules and laws (74 Mitzvot) that Moshe gives to Israel at the border of the Promised Land as a reminder. The people of Israel have an universal mission to be a “light to the nations” (Deut. 23:7–8). This injunction about the stranger is in parallel with the narration of the Besorah of Mark where Yeshua took his disciples to Tyre and Sidon, two non-Jewish areas in order to help his talmidim to be aware of their mission to the nations: “Yeshua left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre…” (Mark 7:24a) Israel and the movement of Yeshua have the same mission to be a light among the nations: That is why even though Yeshua was looking for some rest in a quiet place, “When He had entered a house, He didn’t want anyone to know;” (Mark 7:24b), many people heard about him, understood who he was and came to him “but He couldn’t escape notice.” (Mark 7:24c).
Before commenting this text of the Besorah, we should notice that the Haftarah has also some interesting parallels with the text of the Besorah. In the Haftarah Isaiah gives a great comfort for Israel. She has been desolated and divorced but taken back by God as her wife. “Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:1) This text of the Haftarah presents two women, the “barren” who is desolated or divorced and the one “who has a husband” a married one. These two women represent according to Rabbi Shaul in Galatians 4:24-27 Hagar and Sarah or figuratively Israel and the Kehilah. In the text of the Haftarah the barren woman is comforted. The married one, which is represented by Sarah is the kehilah (assembly) full of Gentiles and seems to be ignored.
However in the parallel text of the Besorah, Yeshua comforts the married woman who is the Gentile woman, a Greek, born in Syria-Phoenicia and who is at the center of the story “a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syro-Phoenician origin” (Mark 7:25-26). In the text she is the occasion to show the openness of Yeshua to the Goyim (Gentiles). These people were not very well considered in Israel, they did not live among God’s people. But Yeshua went purposely to this non-Jewish country to teach his talmidim (disciples) about the needs of these people from the nations who are starving for spiritual food.
The text of the Besorah says: “Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.” . . . . “The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.” (Mark 7:24, 26) It happened very often that Yeshua was provocative to be sure that his disciples understand difficult topics, here his teaching is that no-one is unclean, every one is a creature of God, every one from every nation has been made in the image of God.
This lady has a demoniac possession in her family: “She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter” it is one of the most unclean situation Yeshua could encounter. The text of our parasha is concerned not only about health but also about cleanness of the Land (Deut. 21:23). That is why Yeshua starts a dialogue with this lady, a dialogue which became famous: “’First let the children eat all they want,’ he told her, ‘for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.’” (Mark 7:27) In other words Yeshua said to her that the words of the Lord are not for her as she is not part of God’s people. Some commentators affirm that Yeshua was quoting a well-known proverb, but in fact he was testing the faith of this lady. However, let’s remember that while Yeshua was on earth, his primary mission was towards the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). The reaction of this lady was impressive “‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he told her, ‘For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.’” (Mark 7:28-29). This lady, as many other gentiles gives a demonstration of a great faith. She accepts to be called a dog if only she could get some “crumbs.” We are not in the territory of Israel, but what is called today Lebanon, she was considered as nothing by the Jewish leaders, she was treated as a “dog” by a Jew in her country, and in spite of all these humiliations she accepted with humility the words of Yeshua. Impressed by her faith Yeshua agrees with her and doesn’t hesitate to clean her daughter from a demoniac possession. “She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. (Mark 7:30). She believed, she went back home, and discovered that her daughter was healed. Her faith was rewarded and the grace of God was shared with Gentiles in a wonderful way.
It seems that for Mark, salvation of the Gentiles is important, let’s remember that Mark was a talmid of Shim’on Peter, the Shaliach (Apostle) to the Jews, but going from one land to another one, they also met a majority of Gentiles, that is why his Besorah is so full of Yeshua’s actions among Gentiles or Goyim. Then Yeshua continued his ministry among the Goyim. “Again He left the region of Tyre and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of the Decapolis.” (Mark 7:31). Decapolis means “ten” (deca) “cities” (polis), this territory is going between Galilee and today Jordan. The capital of Decapolis was Beth-Shean, a city south of the sea of Galilee, still in the territory of historical Israel but not very much Jewish at the time of Yeshua, this city can be visited today, with the remain of a pagan temple on the top of the hill.
Yeshua was the first Rabbi to give so much attention to these gentiles cities. that is why when they brought to him a deaf man to be healed Yeshua did not want to much advertisement and he “took him aside from the crowd to a private place,” (Mark 7:33). He healed him: “Looking up to heaven, He says to the man, “Ephphatha,” which means “Be opened!” Immediately the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak plainly.” It was important for these Gentiles to understand that this healing is not by a magical power, but it comes from God, that is why Yeshua addressed openly, with a loud voice a prayer to his father in heaven.
Again Yeshua wanted to keep secret his ministry among Gentiles: “Yeshua ordered them not to tell anyone.” (Mark 7:36a), but it was impossible “the more He ordered them, the more they continued proclaiming it.” (Mark 7:36b)
The reaction of the people (non Jews) was amazing: “People were completely astounded, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He makes even the deaf hear and the mute speak!’” (Mark 7:37). People was amazed by the powerful ministry of Yeshua. These actions of Yeshua certainly prepared the future ministry of the talmidim in all these countries.