Torah PortionKi Tetze (When You Go Out) D’Varim (Deut.) 21:10-25:19

Haftorah Reading Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 54:1-10

Today we read a Torah portion that contains more commandments than any other portion we will read. One of my questions was, what do you see as the overall theme of this portion? This portion is always read during the month of Elul. During this month we are to be focused on where we are in our relationship with our fellowman. Do we have issues we need to clear up? This subject plays into the overall point of this portion. What did you see as the emphasis of this portion?  It seems to me from beginning to end, this portion speaks about our relationships with other people, even down to the mother bird sitting on her next. It is about relationships and how we are to live in peace and harmony with our world, our neighbors and others. The overriding theme is about a life of kindness and mercy toward others and G-d’s creation.

In the opening words we read, “when you go out to war.” Torah, like all scripture, has a deeper meaning to the written words. It would seem to me that each day we go out of our home, or we could even say, when we wake up in the morning, we go out to war. We could characterize it as a war between our flesh and spirit. What will we fill our day with? How will we live this day? Will our day be spent living  for ourselves or will we be going about the business of the Kingdom?

I want to give you a few Hebrew words that might be of help to us as we look at this portion. If you remember, back in Exodus/Shemot we read a section that is very near to what we read today. In Exodus/Shemot 23:4-5 we read about how to react when we see our enemy’s ox or donkey in trouble. The Hebrew word “azav” (help) is used three times. In Hebrew it means to restore, lift up or set aright.

Here in our portion in chapter 22:1-4 we read similar verses to the ones in Shemot. However, there is another word used in our portion. The word is a form of “alam” or hide. Also, here in our verses the word used for the person having the problem is “ach.” This could be a blood relative, a neighbor or a member of your community, as in the family of G-d.

So, these scriptures are saying we are not to hide ourselves from someone who needs help. We are not allowed to pretend we did not see the problem. We are not to abstain from helping one in need. This applies to people we may like and also to people whom we may not like very much. We see this theme over and over in scripture. As G-d’s people we cannot hide ourselves from those who need help. In fact, we are our brother’s keeper. We are not to hide ourselves from helping any and every member of the community and to look after the property of another as if it were our own. The word “alam” is singular in form. It applies to each of us. We are not to turn a blind eye to what is going on around us. It points to the tendency we might have to act as if we have not seen the problem and therefore, cannot be held accountable for doing nothing. To care for others includes those things they own and is a basic biblical principle that we see all through scripture.

In the Messianic scripture we read a wonderful example of our verses here in the Torah portion. In Luke 10:25-37 we read the story of the Good Samaritan. Yeshua was asked what shall I do to inherit eternal life? Yeshua, to make a point, tells the story of a man who had been robbed and beaten and left by the side of the road. Three people passed by. The first was a priest, the second a Levite and the third a Samaritan. Each of these men knew scripture very well yet the first two hid themselves from the injured man. Each of these two may have rationalized their reasoning for not helping, no time, it might be dangerous, it might involve getting their clothes dirty. However, the effect was the same. They hid themselves from the man. Only the Samaritan acted out the principle we read about in our verses. Yeshua was very clear that the third man demonstrated both what the word neighbor or brother meant and the level of involvement someone that is a part of G-d’s kingdom must have.

In Matthew 18:15 Yeshua used the word “ach” or brother in making His point. His Jewish audience would have understood exactly what He was saying. They would remember Va’ikra/Leviticus 19:17 which says the same thing using the same word. In our portion and also in the Messianic scriptures we are told we are not to hide ourselves from helping our brothers, or neighbors or people in our community. We cannot hide ourselves and pretend we do not see.

One last thought, in verses 22:6-7 we read of the commandment to drive a mother bird away from her nest before taking her eggs or taking her young bird. Jewish scholars see this as one of the least of the commandments. This brings me to Matthew 5:19. In this verse Yeshua said, “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same shall be called least in the kingdom of G-d.”

By not breaking the commandment concerning the mother bird, the reward is the same as honoring your father and your mother. The reward is the prolonging of your days. We can see that there are no such things as, “the least of these commandments.” Yeshua is saying that all the commandments are weighty and that all of G-d’s words are important and beneficial to us.