Parashat Kee Tetzey: Deuteronomy 21:10 to 25:19

Shabbat 8/25/23

Our Torah portion continues the rules for the Israelites when engaged in warfare. “Kee tetzey,” when you go out to make war upon an enemy, this is how to behave with a captive woman. The behavior towards captives is pertinent to our daily reading of news reports, vis-a-vis the Russian’s treatment of prisoners, their own soldiers, etc. The Torah emphasizes that a vanquished person/family must be treated with respect, and given a chance to mourn their loved ones. The chapters continue with discussion of the treatment of rebellious teenagers, and the proper way to deal with these family issues.

The Sages saw great significance in “s’michut parashi’yot,” the juxtaposition of seemingly disparate, unconnected mitzvot described in these narratives. They are all set forth, said the Rabbis, to teach us a moral lesson. In the first case (that of captive women), if one marries simply to assuage a sexual passion, you will be destined to have problems with your children and the future family. The remainder of the ‘sedrah’ includes mitzvot about treating animals with kindness, and treating slaves in proper manner. Chapter 24 is the explicit reference in Torah to the institution of divorce. The actual laws about betrothal and marriage are not found in Torah, but are part of the Mishnah (i.e. rabbinic legislation) and are derived from hints in this brief discussion of family purity and divorce legislation.

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