Weekly Reading Insights

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Ki Titze

To be read on 9 Elul 5763 (Sep.6)

Torah: Deut. 21:10-25:19:; Haftorah: Isaiah 54:1-54:10 (fifth of the seven "Haftorahs of Consolation")

Pirkei Avot - Chapter Two

Stats: Ki Tetze , 6th Reading out of 11 in Deuteronomy and 49th overall, contains 27 positive mitzvot and 47 prohibitive mitzvot. It is written on 213 lines in a Torah parchment scroll, 21 in overall length.

Much of Ki Taytze 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 deduct 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 allowed to be 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 build a new house you shall make a parapet for your roof... if anyone fall from it."

When a couple marries and makes the transition from their parents' homes to their own, the need to earn a livelihood brings them into contact with many new things. They must therefore make a "parapet" beforehand, setting the proper limits and spiritual standards, to ensure that no harm comes from their involvement in worldly matters.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

M: 49-63Ki Tetze)


Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.

From the teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz of Safed.
G-d, in His great pity for His creatures, has made thoughtful provisions so as not to totally cast out a sinner. This is why He established the principle of re-incarnation, i.e. transmigration of souls. By allowing a soul to return to earth once more, it is given a "second chance" to rehabilitate itself and recapture its original place in the world of the spirits.
This principle of transmigration of souls is applied in three different ways, corresponding to the attributes in which our three patriarchs excelled respectively.


Some souls do not return to earth because they have to rehabilitate themselves for positive commandments neglected, or for negative commandments which they transgressed when they were on earth previously. The only reason they return to earth is in order to perform acts of kindness for the people of their respective generations. Details of this are explained in Sefer Haflia, Sefer HaTumuna and Sefer Livnat Sapir. The Torah alludes to this in Deut. 3:26: "and G-d passed over me for your sake." The term avor--"pass over me"--is compared to gilgul, both meaning a kind of "transfer." Moses is in effect telling the Jewish people that his being transferred from this world at that time and place was for their own good. This paralleled the attribute of kindness in which Abraham excelled.

Some souls are forced to undergo a second round of life in this world as a punishment, i.e. rehabilitation for sins committed in this life which cannot be atoned for in the purely spiritual regions. This is the way the King of kings has arranged it. When one has broken a number of covenants one may have to return to earth for each covenant one has broken during a previous life on earth. This is the mystical dimension of the deaths of infants or small children. They obviously did not commit a sin in their most recent incarnation, yet they may have had to experience death a second time to expiate for having broken G-d's covenant with Israel in a previous incarnation.

All of this occurs when the sinner had failed to repent properly while he lived on this earth. This is why it is appropriate even for a person who is not knowingly guilty of any major sins in his present life on earth to repent thoroughly for any sins he may have been guilty of in a previous incarnation and for which he had not then obtained forgiveness. If such a person engages in thorough repentance in this round of life on earth, the vicious circle of transmigration will be broken and his soul will find eternal rest in the Hereafter, not needing to return to life on this earth again.


A different fate awaits those who have failed to take advantage of their third round of life on earth, as we know from the words of Elcho in Job (33:29). During the first two or three incarnations the souls are reincarnated in the bodies of human beings. If they have failed to rehabilitate themselves they will be reincarnated as "pure" animals, i.e. the kind of animals fit for consumption by Jews; their eventual fate may be reincarnation as impure animals.
Anyone who has failed to understand Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai [the author of this description in the Zohar] properly, believes that he describes that G-d puts ever greater distance between Himself and the sinner. In fact, the reverse is true; G-d arranges for the "lost object" to be restored to its owner. This kind of reincarnation is based on the attribute of fear, the outstanding characteristic of Isaac [not relying on or appealing to G-d's attribute of Mercy. Ed.]


The third category of transmigration provides an opportunity for the souls in question to perform those commandments which they had been unable to in a previous incarnation due to lack of opportunity. This kind of reincarnation could theoretically continue for one thousand generations under the aegis of the emanation tiferet (beauty), the outstanding characteristic of Jacob.

(adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here)

(W:49-63Ki Titze )

After reading the weekly parasha on Shabbat morning, we also read the first section from the coming week's portion each Shabbat afternoon. This shows the continuity and connectedness of the Torah. This week, however, 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 Lubavitcher Rebbe answers that "When you come into the Land…" (from Ki Tavo) describes how we are supposed to go about "go to war on your enemies" (from Ki Tetze). 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, i.e., "on", the world. From this perspective, the sole option is "and the Lord your G-d will place them in your control".

The parasha continues "And you will take prisoners [in Hebrew, 'shivyo']". "Shivyo", actually translates as "their prisoners", i.e., the prisoners of your enemies. These "prisoners" refer 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. At this time we make an accounting of our actions and rectify what is lacking. Our efforts 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 teshuva - returning to our Jewish roots - is incumbent upon us during Elul. Teshuva 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, Shaul Leiter

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here)

For all our insights for this parsha from last year

Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION