You can find 74 mitzvot in this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tetzei, making it the most law-heavy parashah of the annual cycle. Each mitzvah can be the topic of a fascinating detailed discussion, but we don’t have to cover them all in one year! Instead, let’s isolate two different mitzvot, and when we look at the reason for them, we’ll learn a great deal aboutmitzvot in general.
Here’s the first: “When you take the field against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your power and you take some of them captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you desire her and would take her to wife, you shall bring her into your house, and she shall trim her hair, pare her nails, and discard her captive’s garb. She shall spend a month’s time in your house lamenting her father and mother; after that you may come to her and possess her, and she shall be your wife. Then, should you no longer want her, you must release her outright. You must not sell her for money: since you had your will of her, you must not enslave her” (Deuteronomy 21:10-14)
Here’s the second: “If a man is guilty of a capital offense and is put to death, and you impale him on a stake, you must not let his corpse remain on the stake overnight, but must bury him the same day. For an impaled body is an affront to God…” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23)
So what’s the rationale behind these mitzvot? Is it (a) to refine our most base instincts and to bring Israel to a greater degree of holiness; (b) to display great concern for the humanity of the other; or (c) both of the above?
This gives us plenty to talk about on Shabbat morning!
Wishing you Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise