Saturday, August 25, 2007

DVAR TORAH S2: Ki Tetze (The Lighter Side of ... God)

Mad Magazine Reference...

If last week's Parasha is filled with laws of vigilante justice, this week's is filled with mercy and compassion (besides the case of the Ben Sorer U'Moreh which I have discussed for the past two years so I will not cover this year).

One is to show compassion for one's enemy. Even in ancient military victory where the spoils went to the victor, In Judaism had to be compassionate for the captives they took. If one wanted to take a wife from a defeated heathen they must first allow her to mourn for her life that she lost and take safeguards prevent her from entering into a loveless marriage where the only consideration would have been her beauty. One must return stray livestock to one's enemy as well. It is possibly from here where the shock and disdain at the events of Kamsa and Bar Kamsa emerge.

Respect for the dead, even those who were executed at the hands of the court, forbade the indignity of anything but immediate burial. Further, if a married man died childless, then his brother is supposed to marry his widow and have a child to perpetuate the name of the dead. We see example of this in the case of Ruth

Respect for one's body and for procreation. One who causes themselves to be unable to procreate, such as "crushed testicles" in the words of the Torah, is forbidden to enter the Congregation of the Lord. If another person purposefully causes him to become impotent, they will be punished (the example given is if two men are fighting and the wife of one grabs the testicles of the other her hand gets cut off).

Respect for family's, even of non-humans. Shooing a mother bird so she doesn't have to witness you taking her eggs would bring length of days, a mitzvah on par with "Honor thy mother and father".

Further kindness to animals, animals of different strengths and speeds, say an ox and a donkey are never to be forced to pull the same plow. When any animal is worked in the field, one may not muzzle it, it must be allowed to graze and water freely.

Kidnap and rape would be dealt with capitally. They are absolutely abhorrent to God and the perpetrators would be put to death.

Business practices must be fair and honest. Charging interest to another Jew taking a loan is forbidden. Taking something they need to survive or make a livelihood as collateral is similarly forbidden. One must pay a laborer no later than the promised paydate. Doctoring weights on scales will also be dealt with harshly.

Escaped slaves will not be returned to their masters.

God is merciful to the destitute. The widow, the stranger, the orphan, animals, slaves, poor, children (except for exceptionally rebellious ones), enemies, the condemned, the dead -- all are subject to the mercies of God.

Finally we have a commandment which above all else must be heard at least once a year: to remember what Amalek did to you. Amalek wasn't kind to women, children, weak, and elderly when they attacked from behind and murdered the defenseless stragglers. We must remember this abhorrent injustice always and do our best to eradicate it.

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