Ki-Tzetzei

  1. Let’s look at the stages of ‘courtship’ in the case of the captive woman. In the first stage, the soldier chashaks her. It does mean desire. But its other meanings imply ‘holding close’ or ‘attaching to’. It expresses a desire to hug and comfort. But because the woman is beautiful, we don’t know if that desire is real. If the desire to comfort is real, the process of watching her mourn reinforces it. After that time, if she does not chafetz her captor, she is freed. chafetz is like Chafetz Chaim. It implies delight. To keep her, you must want to see her comforted and delight in her presence even when she is suffering (which probably wouldn’t happen if she hated you). Is this is a reasonably solid definition of love?
  2. In this second reading, we seem to enter a smorgasbord of laws. Are they all of a theme? The first command of this reading is not to leave a body out overnight. The loss of spiritual potential involved in death is contrary to the peaceful divinity of Kedusha. The other laws reveal other aspects of this. We want to minimize loss and suffering – bringing back the stray, helping the fallen animal, recognizing the mother bird’s loss. But we are also connecting to the stability of the divine order. Cross-dressing is an affront to that stability – and so it is included in this set of laws.
  3. This reading is one of the hardest in Torah. If a man claims his wife wasn’t a virgin, she can be killed for it. There is no accident defense. I am tempted to look at this law and say, clearly, that they are savage. We call them that in Islamic society today. So what is a woman who lacks the ‘signs of virginity’ to do? The answer is not to get married in a traditional manner. You could, for example, claim you had relations with your intended outside of marriage or any bed – and then you could be married without consequences. It would not be a high-class affair – it would be a ‘no doc’ marriage. But it would suffice. It removes the harshness. But if this is a solution, why bother with the harshness? The harshness is reserved for those who choose to represent themselves as totally pure when they may lack evidence of that – like falsifying 1040s on a mortgage. Honesty in matters of Kedusha – a matching of presentation and reality – is critical. And those who try to mismatch them and are hated risk bringing evil – the loss of spiritual potential – into the community.
    1. The Talmud says the woman doesn’t need to accept a marriage proposal after rape – but the man is required to grant it. How would marrying your rapist ever make sense? The answer can be seen today, in India. Many rape claims in India are women pressing the claims in order to force men to marry them. Why? Because although the intercourse was consensual, it was based on a false pretense of an offer of marriage. When that pretense was shown to be false, it became rape after the fact. But the woman wanted to marry the man and in many cases – aside from family pressure – the man wanted to marry her as well. Rape laws make it possible. This may give the average womanizer something to think about.
  4. In this reading we see something that is totally contrary to our pre-Civil War existence. The South justified slavery biblically (Jews could own foreign slaves across generations). But they demanded the North return runaway slaves. Here, clearly, we are commanded to welcome foreign slaves and resettle them. Why? And why is it imbedded within these many laws of Kedusha? In the Bell Curve, it was pointed out that Chinese in America had far higher IQs that white people here. But Chinese in China didn’t. Escapees from slavery are the most promising and ambitious of their people. Because freed slaves have the highest potential, we should help them recognize it. In addition, these slaves recognize Israel as a place to run to – just as Eritrians do today. To deny this vision would be a chillul Hashem. Of course, this goes for those who escape freedom – not entire nations.
  5. Why can’t you remarry a woman who married another man in between? In this case the man doesn’t divorce because he doesn’t like the woman – he divorces because he found in her an ervat thing. And what does she do? She goes right away and marries another man. What is ervat? It is first used for Cham seeing his naked father. It is nakedness, emptiness, profanity. He divorces her with cause. So his trust has been violated, and the man she was interested in married her. The trust will never be there again. If the man marries her again, there will be no representation that will be treated as reality. No matter what the physical, financial or social interest, the Kedusha of that marriage can never be reestablished.
  6. Just two hundred and fifty years ago, the average Frenchman considered their necessities a single change of clothes, but not shoes. When we talk about poverty in the Torah we are talking about people who have a single set of clothes or perhaps a single blanket. And when we talk about security, we are talking about taking those clothes or that blanket. When we talk about not paying wages daily, we are talking about depriving people of the food they need to live to the next day. Not healthcare or housing or electricity, food. No level of Kedusha is possible, no level of peace and rest is possible, unless those you deal with can have some sense of self-worth and some confidence that their productive labor will yield the most basic necessities of life. To do otherwise is to deprive them of the space they need to be human.
  7. There is an odd contrast here. Fathers shall not be put together for their sons or sons for their fathers. People should be put to death for their own transgressions. We have this idea of sin belonging to the individual, not their family. Earlier in this reading, we have the entire nations of Moab and Ammon being tarred because of the actions of their ancestors. Why the contrast? We see in this parsha, again and again, that a family can have problems. Glutony, misrepresentation, adultery, extreme poverty. But we see again and again the law works to preserve the character of Kedusha – of divine rest. The law is the nation’s way of dealing with human failings. Individuals can be punished, but a family is not guilty. The laws of G-d ensures a nation has G-dly character. The Moabites and Ammonites lacked this and so no matter their personal behavior they are locked outside of a G-dly society. Ruth so convincingly attached herself to the Jewish people that this did not apply.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.