Torah Portion: Ki Tetze (When You Go Out) D’Varim/Deut. 21:10-25:19
HafTorah: Isaiah 54:1-10
Tonight we study and read a portion made up of over seventy commandments. These commandments cover a variety of subjects but have mainly one theme. What do you think that theme might be? I think this portion’s unifying theme is how should G-d’s people live from day to day? What should be the characteristics of our life?
In the beginning verse, D’Varim/Deut. 21:10 we get a hint of what we are fighting against. In this verse the English reads, “When you go out to war against your enemies, and the L-rd your G-d has delivered them into your hands, and you have taken them captive.” In this translation are two words that are somewhat different in Hebrew. In Hebrew the verse reads, “When you go out to war onyour enemies and G-d will place himin your hands.” So in Hebrew these two words, onand himmake a great deal of difference in the meaning of the verse. What difference does the word on tell us? Ours is a spiritual battle. We are going to war to rise above our enemy – our fleshly desires. “G-d will place himin your hands.” (Notice in Hebrew the enemy is singular – him – the devil – the evil inclination etc.) All the following verses speak of the qualities that should set us apart, above our enemy. We are not to be like the world but transformed by the renewing of our mind. (Romans 12:2) This transformation works its way out in our everyday life. This transformation makes us different than we were. When we go out to war on our enemy G-d will place him in our hands. We will be able to overcome evil with good.
So as we read on let us look at how this transformation should look in our lives. In D’Varim/Deut. 22:1-4 we see that we cannot be indifferent but we have a responsibility to help, to restore, to not hide our eyes but to extend our hands to help.
In D’Varim/Deut. 22:6-7 we read what may sound like an odd command to have in scripture. This concerns not taking the mother bird along with her young. Our compassion, our consideration must extend to even the most vulnerable of G-d’s creation. We must be characterized by mercy and compassion. We are to think of others. These are the qualities of G-d’s people.
This concern for others extends to our building a fence around our roofs so no one falls off. I would think this fence building also applies to our lives each day. We must consider the things of the world and their effect on our spiritual lives. We need to have fences to keep sin from encroaching on our spiritual being. What happens if we do not do this? We find our witness to the world being eroded and maybe more importantly we find ourselves participating in things that take us to a spiritual desert. This spiritual idea is carried through in D’Varim/Deut. 22:9-10 where we read of mixing things that are different, planting different seeds together, using two different animals yoked together and wearing a garment made of two different material. I think the spiritual point made here is that sin and holiness cannot be mixed. We must be aware of what we do each day, where we go, what we watch and what we listen to. Our spiritual boundaries must be in place to give us guidance through each day. Think of this when you are tempted to mix something into your life that may cause you spiritual harm. Romans 6:1-11, in the Messianic writings, carries this same idea. We are a holy people and as such have nothing in common with unholiness.
Lastly, I would like to cover the question of the week. In D’Varim/Deut. 23:7 we read where Moshe spoke these words, “Do not hate the Egyptians because you were a stranger in their land.” Now consider for a moment what Moshe was saying. The Egyptians had used the people as slaves, had laid heavy burdens on their backs and had their baby boys thrown into the Nile River. Now Moshe says do not hate the Egyptians. I think of all the verses in this portion this is the most difficult for us to deal with. What is maybe even stranger is that the Israelites were also told to remember, never forget where they came from. Sh’mot/Exodus 12:14 and Sh’mot/Exodus 13:3.
To be free requires us to let go of the hate. If the people of Israel continued to hate the Egyptians they would continue in the chains of slavery. If we continue to hate someone we too will continue bound by the chains of the event that hurt us. To continue hating the Israelites would still be slaves, they would still spiritually and emotionally be in Egypt wearing the chains of slavery.
In our lives we have to live with the past, but not be enslaved by the past. If we look at this Torah portion we see many verses that tell us to not become what we were but to forgive and become different, to be a better person, a freer person than we were. We see Moshe giving strict guidelines on how to treat and relate to slaves. He told them to remember what it was like and not allow themselves to be like the Egyptians. They were told to give to the poor, not to overlook the needy, leave a portion of their field for food for others. We are to remember but not to preserve hate. We are to conquer it. As G-d’s people this speaks to each of us. All of us have suffered or will suffer hurt as we walk through life. It happens. We can’t allow it to conquer us. G-d loves us even though we were sinners. He forgave us so must we forgive those who harm us so we can be truly free.
Use these verses today to set limits on your life, to be about G-d’s work and not get stuck in the past.