My parasha is called Ki Teitzei. The English translation is ‘When you go out …’ and it covers many many rules written by Moses dealing with proper family relationships, ethical treatment of animals, laws involving many aspects of daily living, justice, family responsibility, work and sexuality. In fact, 74 of the 613 mitzvot are covered in this Parasha.
Some of these rules still have some relevance to today, while many seem to be rather sexist and are at odds with the modern world where men and women have equal rights. So, we need to remember that the Torah is a truly ancient document and these rules were really relevant at that time. What amazes me is that some of these ancient rules do still apply in today’s modern world.
There are far too many rules in my portion to go through them all, so we will take a look at a few of them at this time.
One of the rules that is very simple and still makes sense in today’s world has to do with building design and safety. The rules states that if you have a rooftop entertainment area on your house then you absolutely must have a raised wall, or parapet, around it so that if you have guest at a gathering on your roof they will not plummet off the roof and thus ending their lives and ruining the party.
There are quite a few rules about the treatment of animals … whether they ‘work’ for you or not. An example of this is that if you want eggs from a chicken you must take the hen away from the nest before you take the eggs. This shows that we respect the feelings of the chicken by not just taking the eggs whilst she watches. This brings us to understand that animals have feelings too and treating animals with respect should never be optional.
Quite a few of the rules do not seem fair with regard the treatment of women. We as Progressive Jews are quite right to question these kinds of rules. There are numerous rules that deal with men and women misbehaving, in a biblical sense. In nearly every instance the punishment applied to the women is far harsher than that applied on the men. This is clearly not ethical. We want all people to be treated equally which means that if both men and women are misbehaving then they should receive the same ‘punishments’ as such.
‘Keep away from every evil thing’. Sound advice I think … and needs no further explanation! Another example of just how the ancient text can and does apply to our lives today.
Within the text, there are many common sense type mitzvoth …for example - what do you do if you find something that belongs to someone else? Nope … the answer isn’t ‘keep it for yourself’ … the answer is try and find out who it belongs to give it back to that person!!
Burying the dead: Another biggie: Respecting the body of a dead person and burying it as soon as possible.
Towards the end of my Torah portion it mentions for us to remember Amalek and what he did to the Jews. Amalek was the ruler of the Amalekites. He had an army that he wanted to use to kill the Jews. Other nations saw that God was protecting the Jews so no one was brave or silly enough to attack the Jews, except for Amalek and his army. They attacked the Jews and of course they lost, but the aura of Jewish invincibility was lessened. The Torah commands us to remember Amalek and what he did to us. We make sure we fulfil this commandment by behaving in the opposite way than the Amalekites behaved towards us.
So, in conclusion, I would like to sum up by saying that even though some of these laws seem outdated due to our inevitable Progression of thought and lifestyles through the Ages, they are at their very essence encouraging us to be kind, respectful, just and honourable in our dealings with the world around us, including all living things. We need to be the best WE can be and hopefully that will rub off on others and then we will all be fulfilling the intention of these Mitzvot to the best of our abilities…. Idealistic I know … but I am willing to give it a try … are you?