Ki Teitze: Devarim (Deuteronomy) 21: 10 – 25: 19
Haftarah- Isaiah 54: 1-10
This week’s Torah reading is devoted to rules and laws that affect family and community life. The laws look at relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, neighbours, the underprivileged, and even between humans and animals. This is the parsha that includes the unexpected decree that before taking eggs out of a nest one must shoo away the mother bird- supposedly to save the mother bird the anguish of seeing its (future) young being abducted.
The range of laws and guidelines is impressive. They look at family and seemingly personal issues – the unloved wife, the rebellious child, a lost object… and treat those issues with the same gravity as crimes such as murder. The poor and weak members of society are also noticed in this parsha. The treatment of one’s servants is addressed. All those must be cared for and treated with dignity.
Laws concerning women are quite prominent here. Yibbum or levirate marriage, unloved wives, questioned virginity, and the treatment of women who have been captured in war are all considered in this parsha.
To our modern eyes the reading is often disturbing, but we have to remember what was going on in biblical times. Abuse and murder of women was ignored because it was seen as being under the jurisdiction and purview of the husband or father. In those days women had no status and no rights. They left their home and family to lead a probably cloistered life with their husband’s family. Judaism recognized these injustices and established laws to erase the inequality and unfairness.
Many of the laws listed in Ki Teitzei were ground breaking. For the first time a woman’s status and treatment were deemed important enough to discuss. Women were recognized as deserving respect and protection.
Judaism is a model for a just and generous society. “And thou shalt remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt: therefore I command you to do this thing.” Deuteronomy 24: 22). That one phrase communicates humility and the pursuit of integrity and justice.
Have a meaningful Shabbat,