This parasha contains the most mitzvoth of all the parashiyot in Torah. Ki Teitzei (“When you go out”) contains a significant portion of the Torah’s laws: no less than 74 mitzvot (out of a total of 613) have been counted by the halachic authorities as deriving from our parasha. And, it is so easy to get weighed down by the mere numbers and the minutiae of the instructions. But, as someone once remarked, the key to understanding the mitzvot is that they are about relationships within the community of the faithful.
In this Shabbat’s portion covers an array of commandments for a variety of circumstances, from marriage and relationships to caring for the less fortunate. Some of the commandments pertain to man’s relationship with God, but most of them address the relationship between fellow humans. Like the rest of the book of Deuteronomy, this is part of Moses’s farewell address to the people, and in it he touches on a number of events which happened during their sojourn in the desert, including the war with Amalek.
Topic 1: A Law for Every Circumstance Our portion begins with a series of scenarios, listing what the God-fearing Israelite must do in each case. The first of these is a situation in which a soldier comes across a beautiful captive during war. If he wishes to take her, he must first allow her to mourn her family for a month, shave… Read More »
Topic 2: Some Laws Regarding Marriage The next group of laws Moses outlines relate to marriage. The first deals with a husband who comes to despise his wife and accuses her of not being a virgin when they married. If her parents produce signs of her virginity to the elders of the city, the husband is required to keep her as… Read More »
Topic 3: Several Laws for a Holy People The next lengthy stretch of the portion deals with a variety of brief laws. We have broken it up into two sections for manageability. To keep the camp holy, anyone impure due to a nocturnal emission must sit outside the camp until he is purified. Among a soldier’s equipment, he must also keep a… Read More »
Topic 4: More Laws for a Holy People It is forbidden to take advantage of the weakest segments of society. Likewise, a worker’s wages must be paid on time. Fathers and sons may not be held accountable for each other’s actions. You may not pervert the justice of the convert or the orphan, nor may you take the garment of a… Read More »
Topic 5: Amalek Remembered The portion ends with a reminder of the battle with Amalek before the giving of the Torah, recorded initially in Exodus 17. The people are commanded to remember what they did to the nation, attacking them from behind when they were weak and tired, showing no fear of God. Moses instructs the people that when … Read More »
A Sin deserving of Death?
22 "If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree,
23 "his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile
the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.
This verse was the foundation for what was acted out centuries later as Yeshua hung on the execution stake. The sages teach that because man was created in the image and likeness of G-d, a dead body hanging on a tree was an affront to G-d Himself. This is why in Judaism, ideally, you are buried within 24 hours of dying.
The idea behind this law was that a dead body cannot lie for days on a tree before it will act as carrion and attract birds that feed on dead bodies, whether animal or man.
Which got me thinking a few verses in the B’rit Chadashah that talks about a sin that leads to death:
1 John 5:16-17
16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for
those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about
17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.
What does this mean? What is the sin that leads to death, or the sin unto death, that John talks about?
Many interpretations exist regarding this "sin that leads to death." Unfortunately, the text is not clear what this "sin" is; however, we know that John’s audience were believers.
The most likely explanation is that "sin that leads to death" refers not to one kind of sin, but to the kinds of sins that are perpetuated over a lengthy period of time and the believer does not come to true repentance. He persists in that sin!
Some commentators suggest that the chief commandment found in our scriptures includes and involves faith and love, which implies life. Therefore, the sin that leads to death has to do with deeds that manifest the absence of faith and love. Without faith and love, mankind is nothing more than the walking dead. Perhaps, Ya’akov had this in mind when he said that ‘faith without works, is dead’.
1 John 5:18-21
We know that anyone born of God does not keep on sinning; rather, the One born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that Ben-Elohim has come and given us insight, so that we may know Him who is true—and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Yeshua the Messiah. This One is the true God and eternal life. Children, guard yourselves from idols.
But then John turns his aim at those who claim to be without sin: "...nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister." By love, John isn't talking about a feeling or an emotion. He's talking about a concrete action with a material effect.
16 This is how we know what love is: Yeshua laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our
brothers and sisters.
17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the
love of God be in that person?
18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
However we understand this obscure ‘sin that leads to death’, my suggestion is that we rather concentrate on leading a holy life. This includes serving others in prayer and deed.
God’s instructions are at times beyond human comprehension and a moment dawns we speculations comes to an end and we simply surrender that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.
I find comfort in Dev 29:29 which says that ‘the hidden things belong to the Lord but the revealed things are for man, that he might do them’. My suggestions is let us pursue the revealed things – to be light and salt – and to shine brightly as children of light. Let us be among those who speak words of encouragement and hope to a society that seems to be without hope!