Parashat Ki Teitzei
Parashat Ki Teitzei is the forty-ninth weekly portion in the Torah and the sixth one in the Book of Deuteronomy (21:10-25:19). While the previous two portions speak of the laws relating to Israel’s society and authorities, the focus on this portion is on the home, family and community. Indeed, the Torah returns to many topics previously touched on, from a different point of view.
For example, the first passage is about a war bride (21:10-14). At first glance, it seems odd for this passage to be here, rather than in Chapter 20 with the other laws of war, but in terms of the themes of Parashat Ki Teitzei, it makes perfect sense. While the passage does address a soldier, it is not about combat, but rather requires that the returning soldier treat the woman with dignity: if he still wishes to make her his wife, he must treat her like any other spouse would be treated; if not, he must release her. Similarly, the laws of maintaining a holy camp in wartime also appear in this portion (23:10-15); again, this does not touch on combat per se, but it is an integral element of honoring God’s presence among the people. Finally, we have the honeymoon law (24:5), which states that a new couple spends their first year together, rather than going out to war. This is yet another example of the moral dimension of warfare. Marriage is also dealt with more generally: parental duties (21:15-21); sexual assault and infidelity (22:13-29), incest and forbidden unions (23:1-9), divorce and remarriage (24:1-4) and levirate marriage (25:5-10), in which a man marries his brother’s widow (as in the case of Judah’s sons).
Similarly, although the previous portion details the laws of the courts, it is in this portion that we find the limitations on its power. Executed criminals are to be buried posthaste, not left to rot (21:22-23); parents are not to be punished for their children’s crimes and vice versa (24:16); cruel and unusual punishment is outlawed (25:1-3).
Throughout the portion, the Torah promotes an agenda of morality and compassion: runaway slaves are not to be returned to their masters (23:16-17), workers are to be paid on time (24:14-15) and to be allowed to snack on the produce they gather (23:25-26), and borrowers are to be allowed to retain their dignity (24:10-13) and to repay their debts without interest (23:20-21). Honesty in weights and measures is so integral “For it is an abomination to the Lord your God to act like this, to deal dishonestly.”
The portion concludes (25:17-19) by discussing the eternal battle against Amalek. As a nation which preys on the innocent and defenseless, Amalek is the antithesis of Israel.
The portion from the Prophets is the fifth entry in the Seven of Consolation, Isaiah 54:1-10. Its short and sweet message explores the metaphor of redemption as a renewal of the marriage between God and His people.