• Dvar for Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)

    Parshat Ki Tetzei contains the commandment of Shiluach Hakan (22:6,7), sending away the mother bird before taking her children/eggs. According to the Rambam (Maimonides) the idea is that making the mother watch as you take her children is cruel, even for animals, and one should be sensitive. The Ramban (Nachmonides) sees it differently, arguing that while the Torah gave humans the right to consume animals, taking two generations at once is an over-consumption of that species, and wrong. However, as Rabbi David Fohrman asks, why is this Mitzvah phrased in reference to birds? The reasons above would seem to apply to any animal. Further, the words in the Passuk (verse) don’t seem to fit with either explanation: “Don’t take the mother with her children there” (22:6) sounds like we shouldn’t take the mother, but according to the Rambam we’d be taking the children, and according to the Ramban we’d be taking both. How do we resolve these issues?

    Rabbi Fohrman explains that the answers lies in the reward for this commandment: Long life. Aside from this commandment, there is only one other commandment with the same reward – honoring one’s parents. The connection is the honoring of motherhood. He goes on to explain that it’s very difficult to capture a bird, unless it’s a mother bird protecting its young. The Torah tells us not to take advantage of a mother’s love and sacrifice for her offspring for your own benefit. This lesson is true for all of us – our parents will always love us, but we should not desecrate that love by taking advantage of it. Parental love is meant to help us grow, not to be used as a trap against them. If we honor our parents, appreciating everything that we have because of them, may our reward be a long and healthy life.

  • Dvar for Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)

    There is a Passuk (verse) in Parshat Ki Tetzei that reads “And if you desist from vowing, no sin (fault) will be found with you.” This implies (and confirmed in a Gemara in Nedarim) that one that does vow will be found at fault, even if he/she fulfills the vow. Why is this true? What if someone vows to do a good deed, what could possibly be wrong with doing that?

    Jonny Gewirtz in his weekly publication Migdal Ohr offers an insightful answer: Since one could have fulfilled the mitzvah without the vow, the vow merely serves as a potential obstacle because if they do not fulfill the act they have committed a sin by transgressing their vow. On a deeper level, though, one who desists from making vows will not be found sinning because they are aware of the power of the tongue. They know that speech, once uttered, cannot be retracted, and thus is careful about what they say. This awareness applies not only to vows but lashon harah, hurtful words, falsehood, etc. which encompass so many other sins they will be able to avoid.

    At the culmination of Elul on Erev Rosh HaShana, and again at Kol Nidrei on Yom Kippur, we annul any vows we have taken and declare our intention not to vow again. This is the hope of the new year, that it will be one in which we will be cognizant of the power we have in our tongues and in our actions, and speak/act appropriately. This undertaking to be careful with vows is not the ultimate goal, it is just the beginning.

  • Dvar for Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)

    There is a Passuk (verse) in Parshat Ki Tetzei that reads “And if you desist from vowing, no sin (fault) will be found with you.” This implies (and confirmed in a Gemara in Nedarim) that one that does vow will be found at fault, even if he/she fulfills the vow. Why is this true? What if someone vows to do a good deed, what could possibly be wrong with doing that?

    Jonny Gewirtz in his weekly publication Migdal Ohr offers an insightful answer: Since one could have fulfilled the mitzvah without the vow, the vow merely serves as a potential obstacle because if they do not fulfill the act they have committed a sin by transgressing their vow. On a deeper level, though, one who desists from making vows will not be found sinning because they are aware of the power of the tongue. They know that speech, once uttered, cannot be retracted, and thus is careful about what they say. This awareness applies not only to vows but lashon harah, hurtful words, falsehood, etc. which encompass so many other sins they will be able to avoid.

    At the culmination of Elul on Erev Rosh HaShana, and again at Kol Nidrei on Yom Kippur, we annul any vows we have taken and declare our intention not to vow again. This is the hope of the new year, that it will be one in which we will be cognizant of the power we have in our tongues and in our actions, and speak/act appropriately. This undertaking to be careful with vows is not the ultimate goal, it is just the beginning.

  • Dvar for Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)

    At the very end of Parshat Ki Tetzei we encounter one of the more famous commandments, instructing us to remember what Amalek did to us as we left Egypt. While the whole world saw the Jews as untouchable, Amalek decided to kill us by attacking the weak people lagging behind, thus proclaiming to the world that they weren’t afraid of G-d by attacking His nation. However, by attacking the weak ones they proved that they were indeed afraid of the Jews. Strangely, though, the next few Pesukim (verses) tell us to wipe out the memory of Amalek from this world. So which is it? Should we remember what they did to us, or should we wipe out their memory and forget? At the end of this section the Torah then reminds us again to not forget!?

    To help us understand the issues involved here, Chazal (our Rabbis) have explained, using an analogy, that it’s as if Amalek jumped into scalding hot water, and although they were burned, they cooled the water, and everyone around them was a little bit more comfortable with the hot water. As the book “Majesty of Man” elaborates, human nature dictates that the more we see of something, the less sensitive we are to it. So what’s the solution? The Torah tells us to remember, erase, and yet remember: Remember the elements in this world that would pick on the weak and defy G-d and authority, but only so that you could erase them, thereby erasing their influence. The final step is to never forget what happens when we surround ourselves with negative influences.

    As human nature dictates, and as the history books (following this battle) record, we are influenced by our society, neighborhood, and by our friends. Just as we must be careful not to let ourselves be affected by anything negative, we must also

  • Dvar for Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)

    There is a Passuk (verse) in Parshat Ki Tetzei that reads “And if you desist from vowing, no sin (fault) will be found with you.” This implies (and confirmed in a Gemara in Nedarim) that one that does vow will be found at fault, even if he/she fulfills the vow. Why is this true? What if someone vows to do a good deed, what could possibly be wrong with doing that?

    Jonny Gewirtz in his weekly publication Migdal Ohr offers an insightful answer: Since one could have fulfilled the mitzvah without the vow, the vow merely serves as a potential obstacle because if they do not fulfill the act they have committed a sin by transgressing their vow. On a deeper level, though, one who desists from making vows will not be found sinning because they are aware of the  power of the tongue. They know that speech, once uttered, cannot be retracted, and thus is careful about what they say. This awareness applies not only to vows but lashon harah, hurtful words, falsehood, etc. which encompass so many other sins they will be able to avoid.

    At the culmination of Elul on Erev Rosh HaShana, and again at Kol Nidrei on Yom Kippur, we annul any vows we have taken and declare our intention not to vow again. This is the hope of the new year,  that it will be one in which we will be cognizant of the power we have in our tongues and in our actions, and speak/act appropriately. This undertaking to be careful with vows is not the ultimate goal, it is just the beginning.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tetzei, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Some commandments discussed in this Aliya: Building a safety fence around a flat roof; the prohibitions against sowing mixtures of seeds, plowing with a mixed pair of animals, or wearing a garment which contains a mixture of wool and linen (shatnez); wearing tzitzit; the penalty for a husband who defames his wife; the punishment for adultery; the penalty for rape; and certain prohibited marriages.

    Of all the things for the Torah to be concerned about, requiring a person who builds a house with a flat roof to build a fence so that people won’t fall off seems a bit irrelevant to most people. But the Midrash explains that this is meant to be a global inclusive obligation to address all hazards we may create. That includes driving unsafely, smoking near others, or any other activity that might endanger others. But this also extends to all commandments, requiring us to prevent accidental transgressions. That’s why, for example, we shouldn’t touch pens on Shabbat, because we may accidentally write, etc. It turns out that a seemingly exclusive rule ends up providing us with all-inclusive direction.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tetzei, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Commandments discussed in this Aliya: Speedy burial of the deceased, returning a lost object to its owner, aiding a neighbor when his animal has fallen because of its burden, the prohibition against cross-dressing, and the obligation to send away a mother bird before taking its chicks or eggs.

    This Aliya stresses caring in general. We must care about others’ lost objects (to the point where we must take care of it until they claim it), we must help others reload their donkey if the load fell (that might extend to flat tires or accidents), and we must care about a mother bird’s feelings when taking her eggs. Does it mean that if we follow these rules we care about other people and birds? Not necessarily, but as Rav Dessler explains, the more we do for others, the more we like them (contrary to logic dictating the opposite). Why wait for someone to do something for you in order to appreciate them, when you can do something for them and get the same (if not better) result!

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tetzei, Rishon (1st Aliya)

    General Overview: This week’s reading, Ki Teitzei, contains 74 commandments, more mitzvot than any other Torah portion. Some of the commandments discussed: the law of the rebellious son, the obligation to bury the dead without undue delay, the requirement to return a found object, the prohibition against causing pain to any living creature, the prohibition against prostitution, the laws of marriage and divorce, the procedure of the Levirate marriage, and the obligation to eradicate the memory of Amalek.

    Aliya Summary: This Aliya begins with a discussion regarding female captives of war, and lays down the conditions under which a soldier may marry a captive. The right of a firstborn son to a double portion of his father’s inheritance is then detailed. The section concludes with the procedure for dealing with an aberrantly rebellious child.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tetzei, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: We are forbidden to withhold or delay a worker’s wages. Relatives’ testimony is inadmissible in a court of law. Various mandatory gifts for the poor are discussed. The procedure for corporal punishment is outlined. The mitzvah of Levirate marriage (yibum) is introduced: if a married childless man dies, his brother is obligated to marry the widow. If the brother refuses to marry the widow, he and she go through a chalitzah ceremony, which frees her to marry whomever she wishes. We are instructed to maintain accurate weights and measures. The reading ends with the mitzvah to remember Amalek’s evil deed, ambushing the Israelites on their way from Egypt.

    We may not take unfair advantage of our less-fortunate workers.A day- laborer must be paid on time. One must not pervert justice even on behalf of an orphan. Securities for a loan must not be taken from a widow. Our experience in Egypt is to be remembered as the motive for many of these “sensitizing” mitzvoth.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tetzei, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: More mitzvot: A newlywed man is exempt from military service for a full year. It is forbidden to accept utensils used to prepare food as loan security or to forcibly take a debtor’s possessions as collateral, and a poor man’s security must be temporarily returned to him on a daily basis. Kidnapping is a capital offense. We are commanded to always remember that Miriam was afflicted with tzara’at for speaking badly about Moshe.

    We are instructed to be cautious and meticulous about tzara’at, the affliction for speaking Lashon Hara (slander about others). As if the double warning wasn’t enough to make the point, the very next Passuk (24:9) tells us to remember what happened to Miriam when she spoke Lashon Hara about Moshe. Obviously two Pessukim (verses) and three warnings means that Lashon Hara is a pretty big deal. Sifri explains that the first two warnings are for us not to hide the symptoms if afflicted with tzara’at (do not peel the skin or cut away any spots), which makes sense if the symptoms are to serve as a deterrent. As for Miriam: Lashon Hara differs from defamation in that its focus is on the use of true speech for a wrongful purpose, rather than falsehood and harm arising. Surely Miriam justified her words with the benefits of speaking, but the ends didn’t justify the means. The third warning is then to avoid that justification that even Miriam can fall for.

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