Weekly Reading Insights

Ki Tetze 5762

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Ki Tetze
To be read on the Shabbat of 9 Elul 5762 (Aug.17)

Torah: Deut. 21:10-25:19
Haftorah: Isaiah 54:1-54:10 (5th of the Seven Haftorahs of Consolation)
Pirkei Avot: Chapter Two, (Chapter One outside of Israel)

Stats: Ki Tetze contains 27 positive mitzvot and 47 prohibitive mitzvot. Among the Weekly Readings,
Ki Tetze
ranks 28 out of 54 in number of verses, 23 in number of words, and 26 in number of letters;
it is written on 213 lines in a Torah parchment scroll, 21 in overall length.

Much of Ki Tetze (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:18) is a series of laws. The first describes the process of converting and marrying women captives of war from other nations. Next are the laws of a firstborn son's inheritance, the punishment of a rebellious son, burial of a hanged sinner, returning lost articles, helping a Jew's fallen animal to stand and return its load, the prohibition to wear clothes of the opposite gender, removing a mother bird before taking her eggs or young, and placing a guard rail on the roof of a building. This is followed by the prohibition of planting together different plant species, plowing with different animal species under one yoke, and wearing a garment of linen and wool. Male Jews are commanded to wear tzitzit (fringes) on four cornered garments. Next are the laws of the defamed wife-accused of false virginity or infidelity-and the consequences when the accusation is proven true or false. Laws regarding betrothal, rape, incest, bastardry, and marriage to converts from certain nations are also listed. The Jews are commanded to be modest even at war, both sexually and when relieving themselves. Jews are forbidden to return runaway slaves (who came to Israel from elsewhere) to their masters. The Jews are forbidden to be promiscuous, and to charge interest from other Jews. They are also required to fulfill vows on time, allow employees to eat from produce they are working with, and are explained the laws of divorce and remarriage. A bridegroom is not drafted; a millstone may not be used as security for a loan; and a kidnapper's punishment is described. The Jews are reminded to be careful about laws of leprosy, how to take security for loans, and to pay wages on time. Certain close relatives may not testify against each other; widows and orphans must be treated properly; forgotten harvested produce must be left in the field for the needy; flogging by court order must be exact; and animals may not be muzzled when treading grain. When a man dies leaving his wife childless, his brother or closest kinsman is commanded to marry her. The laws of such a case are described as well as a situation where the relative chooses not to marry the widow. Next is the law concerning a woman who became involved in an assault on her husband. The Jews are reminded to be honest in their weights and measures, and to remember how Amalek attacked the Jews when we went out of Egypt.


"When you go forth to war against (literally "above") your enemies." (21:10)

When you go forth into battle with complete trust in the G-d of Israel, secure in the knowledge that G-d stands by your side to assist, you are automatically "above" your enemies as soon as you embark on your mission.

(Likutei Sichot)


"He may write her a bill of divorcement." (24:1)

Why is the Biblical "bill of divorcement" ("sefer ke'ritut" called a "get"? Because the letters of the word "get," gimel and tet, are never found next to each other in any word of the entire Torah--the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets, or the Writings!




Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

"And they shall fine him one hundred shekalim." [22:19]

This is an allusion to the one hundred benedictions each one of us is meant to recite every day as explained in Menachot 43, based on Deut. 10:12: "and now what, [mah] does the Lord G-d ask of you, etc." The Talmud interpreted the word mah as equivalent to meah (hundred), i.e. G-d asks that we recite one hundred benedictions. That verse spoke about a penitent as we know from Breshit Rabbah 21 that the word veatah or atah always refers to a penitent sinner.

"and the elders shall give (these 100 benedictions) to the Father of the virgin-bride, i.e. to G-d, etc., because he (the Israelite) has slandered the virgin-bride of Israel." This is a reference to the schinah, the Divine Presence, which includes all of Israel, the tenth emanation [popularly known as keter. Ed.] or virtue, called the oral Torah, a concept familiar to students of the Kabbalah.

"and she shall be his wife, and he must not divorce her as long as he lives."
Although the commandment to study Torah is normally understood to involve setting aside certain parts of the day and night for study, a person who has rejected Torah study previously and who has thereby slighted the Torah must henceforth occupy himself with honoring the Torah all day and all night, i.e. "he cannot send her away as long as he lives."

Vayikra Rabba 25:1 states that if a person was in the habit of studying Torah for an hour daily before committing a sin, then part of his rehabilitation is to study two hours daily. This is applicable to people whose sins did not consist of insulting the Torah. In order to make up for the insult to Torah which the person in our paragraph is guilty of he has to henceforth devote himself exclusively to Torah.

22:20-21 "But if the matter was true, etc." If it turns out that the Torah which this person studied and which he examined and found defective, was taught by heretics, such as the Torah taught by Tzadok and Bayssus, such Torah does not give man strength but exerts a negative influence on him. G-d commands to stone such a "Torah" to death until it is completely dead, as per our verse. Whereas the teachers of this kind of Torah employed words spoken by G-d, i.e. the text of the Torah, the intention of the teacher teaching it disqualifies it. We have been taught in Gittin 48 that if a heretic painstakingly writes an entire Torah scroll it must be burned forthwith, as he did something despicable, etc. When the Torah concludes our paragraph with the words: "you shall wipe out evil from your midst," it refers to someone who deliberately distorts the meaning of the Torah.

22:22 "If a man be found having intercourse with a woman married to someone else, etc." The verse is best understood with reference to Sanhedrin 59 that if a Gentile engages in Torah study he is guilty of the death penalty. The Torah is already betrothed to her husband the Israelite, she is his bride.

"Both of them shall die etc." both the Gentile studying the Torah and the "Torah" itself. This means that such "Torah" instead of spreading its spiritual light will darken the horizon of the Gentile who studies it. It will not be perceived as possessing life-giving powers as when it is studied by an Israelite. Torah, which according to Proverbs 4:22 is a source of life to those

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter

(W:49-62/Ki Tetze)

After reading the weekly parsha on Shabbat morning, we also read the first section from the coming week's portion each Shabbos afternoon. This shows the continuity and connectedness of the Torah.
This week the combination is especially interesting as the two portions appear to be clear opposites. Ki Tetze speaks about going out to war, the most unstable of situations.
Next week, Ki Tavo speaks about entering and settling the Land. The former focuses on the service that is required of each of us. The latter describes the reward. Where is the continuity?
The Lubavitacher Rebbe answers that "Ki tavo el ha'aretz"-'when you come into the Land'-describes how we are supposed to go about "Ki tetze lemilchama al oyvecha"-'when you go to war on your enemies'.

The daily battle we wage in conquering the world for positive purposes, has to be done in a settled and restful way. I am in control of my environment, it does not control me. When we allow ourselves to be swallowed up by situations, then we become only a detail in creation.
In truth, a Jew exists on a plane that is based on a reality that supersedes the world. This is clear from the first verses of our portion: "When you go out to war ON your enemies"-a Jew is always above-on- the world. From this perspective, the sole option is "and the Lord your G-d will place them in your control".
The parsha continues "And you will take prisoners-shivyo". "Shivyo"-captives-actually translates 'their prisoners', the prisoners of your enemies. These 'prisoners' refers to the last few sparks of Divinity still trapped in exile in the physical world. How do we 'capture' and elevate these sparks in a restful and settled way? By knowing that all we need to do is make the effort, and G-d will definitely guarantee our success.

These ideas are also applicable to our Divine service during the month of Elul, the last month of the year. Now, we make an accounting of our actions and rectify what is lacking. Our effort will result in a blessed coming year. This parallels the arrangement of "When you go out to war", and "When you come into the Land". These Torah portions give us not only the ability to conquer our difficulties, but to do so in a true manner of calm confidence.

The Rebbe Rayatz said that teshuvah-returning to our Jewish roots-is incumbent upon us during Elul. Teshuvah is composed of 3 things: fixing the present, regretting the past, and resolutions for the future. Only when we have properly fixed the present, are we able to properly manage the past and set the right boundaries for the future. Without first repairing the present, any attempt to deal with the past or future will not bring about the desired results.

Shabbat Shalom,


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