The weekly reading in the Synagogues around the world is from Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19. It is a long reading and full of very important instructions from the Lord God of Israel for the community. Like all of God’s Word from Genesis to the end of the book of Revelation most of God’s word does not deal with religion at all but deals with real life and the challenges that all human beings face in life and sometimes daily. Let me give you a short outline of the issues that this week’s reading Ki-Teze (If (as) you go out):
Deut. 21:10-14 – What to do with a female captured during war. This is especially relevant today after we have seen and heard what ISIS has done in Iraq and Syria. This is especially important because we have seen ISIS – all in the name of Allah – take young girls as sex slaves and sell them for 100 $US to others. This portion of the Torah dealing with some of these issues over 3000 years ago – gave the people of Israel different instructions.
Deut. 21:15-16 – The first-born male in the family inherits 50% of his father’s wealth. Today this might not seem fair, but when you consider the socio-economics of that old world and in comparison, even in our own days – you will see what great wisdom and fairness God’s Word has.
Deut. 21:18-21 – What to do with a rebellious and renegade child!
Deut. 21:22-23 – This is the issue that the Apostle Paul is dealing with and explaining in Galatians 3:13 and Acts 5:30 both refer to this text. In some old Jewish traditions this text was associated with the Roman practice of crucifixion and this is why Paul and Acts bring this forward.
Deut. 22:1-4, This deals with the responsibility to restore what you find to the rightful owner. You are supposed to do all that is within your possibility to find to whom the find belongs and to restore it to the owner. In the same text you have the good Samaritan law. Deut. 22:4, “You shall not see your brother’s donkey, or his ox fall down along the road, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him lift them up again.” The argument of the Gospel is that “how much the more if you see your fellow human-being fallen or hurt or damaged on the side of the road.”
Deut. 22:5, There has to be a clear difference between the sexes. Male must not wear or pretend to be a female. The difference must be held and seen in public. I realize that today this is not “politically correct.” The question that I have is whom are we, the disciples of Yeshua going to follow? Are the Disciples of Yeshua going to join the WORLD or are they going to follow our Lord – Master – Rabbi – Savior?
Deut. 22:6 -7, Being humane to animals and especially to the little birds that do no harm but only bless nature and humanity.
Deut. 22:8, Take responsibility for your action and do it before an accident happens – build a fence around the roof of your house is only one example of this great principle.
Deut. 22:9-12, This Scripture has great importance today. The principle is that are things that don’t mix, and we ought not to mix them. Yes, at first sight some of these things don’t make sense, but after you think about it you see the great wisdom of God. You start mixing together things that by nature don’t mix and even if they are benign.
Deut. 22:13-23:9 – These are the regulations from God against incest (sex with members of your family, your children or your mother-in-law. We see in 1 Corinthians 5 that in the church there was a person who was not too smart and was having relationship with his mother in law.
Deut. 23:10-15, How to keep the camp / family / church / community pure and spiritually clean. This issue is of great importance even today – how much sin and impurity does a community suffer before it becomes a plague!
The rest of the portion deals with a non-Israelite slave who runs away from his Israelite master – He must not be caught and returned to his master. He must be allowed to stay free. The concept is that no-one runs away from the good. If he ran away it must be that his master did not treat him right.
There are other issues in this portion of the Torah – like forbidding prostitution, a worker has the right to partake of his work and ox must not be muzzled while treading the grain, marriage and divorce, social behavior and financial responsibility, dealing with damage that is not physical but emotional and public embarrassment.
My point is simple – most of the Torah does not deal with super spiritual and religious issues. The Torah deals with life – with building a healthy and Godly society that has righteous and just and equitable life for all of its members and even for the stranger that is passing by. The religions have taken this fountain of fresh and good water and sealed it under the heavy burden of religion and dogmatism that has snuffed the life out of both Judaism and Christianity.
I know from Isaiah 1 and Jeremiah 7 and Hosea 6 – that it makes God ill when His people become so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. We must all remember the words of the prophets and the words of the Apostle Paul to the people of Athens: “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, “For we are also His offspring.’” (Acts 17:24-28).
From Rabbi Joseph Shulam.