The weekly Torah portion (Hebrew: פָּרָשַׁת הַשָּׁבוּעַ Parashat ha-Shavua, popularly just parasha) is a section of the Torah read publicly and aloud in weekly Jewish prayer services, usually in full during the Shabbat (Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath). Each week, the ECI Young Adults are providing us with a commentary on the week’s parasha.
Parasha Ki Teitzei ~ Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
This week’s Torah portion is entitled ‘Ki Teitzei’ which means “to go out” or “when you go out.” Following the stream of the rest of Deuteronomy, this section contains a large amount of legal detail which instructs the Israelites on how they should conduct their lives. Differing slightly from the priestly laws explained in the book of Leviticus, the emphasis here falls more on the average person, expanding the reach of the law also to home life and civil duties. Instructions are given about marriage and divorce, the inheritance rights of the firstborn, sexual morality, exclusions from the congregation, and also many miscellaneous laws from ploughing a field and instructions on what to wear. It seems that every area of community life is influenced by the law!
In all of this, Moses is addressing the nation of Israel, specifically reminding a new generation of their call to serve the Lord. He is very aware of the failures of those who originally stepped out of Egypt and began their exodus. Now, after forty years of wandering in the desert, this new generation will soon possess the land destined to them as an inheritance. Their obedience will be crucial in determining their success. As a result, these scriptures contain a cry from the heart so that their “days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Deut 25:15).
Purity in the camp:
“For the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you.” (Deut 23:14)
Throughout this portion of scripture, the importance of cleansing ourselves from evil comes up regularly. The Israelites are reminded to purge themselves and their communities from things which the Lord has called unclean or detestable – to “put away the evil from among you” (Deut 21:21).
Chosen to host the actual presence of God, there was a great responsibility to create a pure dwelling place for Him. If this nation is to carry God’s name and be His people, then there can be no sin found in them. Likewise, if we are to be a part of God’s family, then we are called to live a lifestyle of holiness and purity. This way, we actually become attractive to God and He can come and fill us! To understand God’s heart for His people is to know why these laws have been put in place. All of these laws are for this reason: so that Israel can not only be rightfully pure as they stand before the Lord, but also to enable a Holy God to draw near to them!
‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you.’
Righteousness in Compassion:
Israel is chosen as a “royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). They are called to both host God’s presence and then represent Him well among the nations. Yet, a right representation of who God is cannot simply mean obedience and rule-abiding, because the second half of the parasha implies that holiness is also living compassionately and generously. A large section of Chapter 24 is devoted completely to caring for the stranger, the fatherless and the widow. This was even accounted to as righteousness in verse 13!
There is also a stark reminder given to the people of Israel to not forget where they have come from: “but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you from there” (Deut 24:18). Because of this, the people of Israel, and we ourselves, cannot represent Him accurately unless they are reaching out to those around them with compassion and also with humility.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
We are called to a lifestyle of purity, justice and compassion.
It is clear to see from the scriptures that purity is an integral part of who God is and He desires us to walk in holiness. 1 John 3:3 says that “all who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure.” However, God is also looking for a people who will love as He does; a people who will be caring, generous and compassionate. Israel is called to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6) and so they should model something for the world to follow! When we “go out,” let us be seen as a people clothed in purity, living out a holy lifestyle and not being too quick to forget those in need, or where we have come from ourselves. Let us be set apart unto God.
The European Coalition for Israel is a unique grassroots movement, which is seeking to promote better relations between Europe and Israel through advocacy and education. More information: www.ec4i.org