Aliya-by-Aliya Parashat Ki Teitzei 5760

Numbers in [square brackets] are the mitzva-count of the Sefer HaChinuch.

KOHEN - First Aliya - 12 p'sukim (21:10-21)

The "beautiful captive": A Jewish soldier must resist the "normal" temptations of battle, but is permitted to take a captive woman only according to the approved Torah procedures [532].

This is not an ideal situation; commentaries consider this to be one of the mitzvot that is a "concession to the base inclinations of a man" in the heat of battle. As "strange" as this mitzva might seem, and as much as it is not a part of our experience, it does tell us something about the difference between armies of the world and the Jewish army. We do not (are not supposed to) behave like other people - even in the "heat of battle".

If he decides after the waiting period not to marry her, he must release her without abusing or humiliating her [533,534].

A man may not favor the son of his beloved wife over his firstborn from a "less-loved" wife. (Implication from the juxtaposition of these two topics is that marrying for the wrong motive likely leads to a "hated wife".)

This passage is the source of the firstborn's double portion. Ramban counts two mitzvot here - the positive command to give the firstborn a double portion and the prohibition of not giving it to him. Rambam and the Chinuch (whose counting is used in TT), include the rules of the firstborn as part of the laws of inheritance from Parshat Pinchas and not separately here. This is just one of many examples of different countings among the Sages who attempted to identify the traditional 613 mitzvot.

[SDT] The Vilna Gaon sees a hint to the double portion of the B'chor in the letters of the word B'CHOR: BET-KAF- RESH. Each letter is double of its category - Bet=2, double of the "ones"; kaf=20, double of the "tens"; and Resh=200, double of the "hundreds" section of the Aleph-Bet.

The "rebellious son" is warned by his parents to mend his ways. If he continues to defy them, violates certain mitzvot, engages in a specific sequence of actions, and if he is of a specific age and at a particular stage of physical development, and his parents are healthy, normal, and deemed to be on equal levels of character, then, and only then, would it be possible to execute him as a "Ben Sorer U'moreh". Although it is almost impossible to reach that ultimate point - and sources indicate that there never actually was a case of "the rebellious son" - this portion of the Torah serves as a stern warning to wayward children AND their parents! Some mitzvot seem to be intended primarily as deterent and Mussar.


The age range for possible conviction of "Ben Sorer U'moreh" is from 13 to 13 and 3 months. And that is only if the boy is at a specific stage of puberty - an extremely small window. It seems that the Torah does not want to actually execute a rebellious son. The execution of a BSU'M is not at all a typical punishment for a sin/crime. Stealing meat, gluttony, disregard of parental authority - none are capital offenses on their own, or collectively. The BSU'M is executed at G-d's command because the Torah testifies that he will be so evil in his life based on his current behavior, that we are not to allow him to continue to exist. What about the possibility of T'shuva? Apparently, G-d says that in this case, there is none. We, of course, cannot make these kind of judgments - only HaShem can.

LEVI - Second Aliya - 9 p'sukim (21:22-22:7)

Those executed by stoning were hung after death [535] for a brief period before sunset. They were then buried [536] with the hanging post to avoid extra embarrassment to the Divine image in which we were all created.

The hanging of the body after execution (in some cases, not all) serves as a deterrent for others and is part of the atonement process for the soul of the guilty party.

Using "Kal VaChomer", we are taught that burial, in general, and "as soon as is feasible", in particular, is the proper procedure for the dead [537].

Note that although the Torah here speaks only of the executed "felon", the mitzva from the Torah includes burial of all dead. This is not a Rabbinic deduction, extension, or legislation - it is part of Torah Law - the Oral Law.

One is required to return identifiable lost objects to their rightful owners [538], even if doing so is difficult. One cannot ignore this responsibility [539] even if it is easier to just leave the object alone.

Technically, the laws of LOST & FOUND apply to possessions of fellow Jews. However, with the potential for Kiddush HaShem and its opposite, depending upon what one does, it is important to go out of one's way to return a lost item to a non-Jew as well.

Nor may one ignore a fellow's beast of burden that has collapsed under its burden [540]. One is required to help his fellow load his animals [541].

Men and women may not interchange apparel [542,543] nor do certain things that are specific to the opposite sex.


Targum Yonatan b. Uziel defines this commandment as the prohibition of women wearing Talit and T'filin. Both these mitzvot are time-related positive commandments, and as such women are exempt from fulfilling them. Normally, many women accept upon themselves these type of mitzvot, as is the case in Shofar, Sukka, Lulav, Omer - to various extents. Not so with T&T. Those authorities who follow the Targum's opinion, would actually forbid a women from wearing Talit or T'filin. While most authorities would agree that T&T are not prohibited for women, the fact remains that women generally do not perform these two mitzvot.

It should also be kept in mind that T'filin are not just that with which we perform a mitzva (mitzvot); they are intrinsically sacred. As such, there is more reason for anyone not obligated to wear them, not to do so. (This explains why a Bar Mitzva boy waits until right before he becomes obligated, to wear his T'filin. Most other mitzvot are "practiced" and "trained for" at a much earlier age.

When one happens upon a (kosher) bird's nest (in the wild), it is for bidden to take the mother bird alone or with her eggs/chicks [544], but one may take the eggs/chicks if one first sends the mother bird away [545]. This is an enigmatic mitzva that defies logic. It is shrouded in mysticism, more than most mitzvot.


The mitzva prohibiting muzzling an animal when it is working around food, for example, is one of the sources of our obligation to avoid cruelty towards animals. Although no reason is given in the orah, our Sages boldly proclaimed the reason (or a reason) for this mitzva. There are other mitzvot that Chazal have attached reasons to, with little hesitation. Of course, there is always the reminder that primarily we must do mitzvot because they are the decrees of the King. But reasons have their place in Jewish learning and life. Shilu'ach HaKan defies logic and pushes away reasons. Kosher bird only. Only in the wild, not birds owned by people. Why these distinctions (and others) if this is another mitzva "simply" related to mercy vs. cruelty? Because it isn't a simple mitzva.

SH'LISHI - third Aliya - 29 p'sukim (22:8-23:7)

One is required to build a protective fence around one's roof [546]. One must remove all safety hazards from one's property [547]. Oral law defines these mitzvot as more inclusive than just one's roof. Rabbinic law, "taking the Torah's lead", extends "safety & health" rules to many areas. E.g. Primary smoking aside (a strong case can be made to consider this health/life threatening practice a Torah prohibition), it should be obvious that smoking in the proximity of others violates the essence of mitzva #547.

Rambam says that a person may not tell others: "Don't tell me what to do; if I want to risk my health or life, it's my business". This is something to keep in mind when you decide to "go at" your favorite smoker.

One may not plant mixed grains in a vineyard [548], nor may one eat the resulting products [549]. Note: It is not always the case that one may not benefit from the result of a forbidden mixture. A mule, for example, may be used, even if produced in violation of the prohibition against cross-breeding of animals. As opposed to this mitzva of "K'lai Kerem", which is forbidden across the board.

Plowing with ox and donkey together is forbidden, as is the tying together of any non-compatible animals (or humans) for any purpose [550].


Note: The prohibition of pulling a cart with an ostrich and a giraffe should not be considered rabbinic extension of the Torah law. In fact it is a full Torah violation, since the Talmud teaches that the scope of this mitzva from the Torah perspective is not exclusively plowing, nor ox, nor donkey. This idea appears in some, but not all, mitzvot.

Rambam holds that the Torah prohibits any combination of a kosher and non-kosher animal, based on the fact that the Torah's example is one of each. Rambam says that combinations of two kosher or two non- kosher animals is forbidden by Rabbinic law. Many authorities challenge the Rambam's distinction and say that it is all Torah law.

Do not wear Shaatnez (Garments of wool and linen together) [551]

In contradistinction to the previous mitzva, here only wool and linen may not be mixed for clothing (and technically similar uses). No "widening" of the definition of the mitzva nor rabbinic broadening of its scope is extant. (Actually, there is a concept of "Rabbinic Shaatnez", but it does not go beyond wool-linen-combinations.)

To clarify: The Torah SAYS - Ox, donkey, plowing. The Talmud teaches us that this applies - D'Orayta (from the Torah) to goat, ostrich, pulling a circus wagon.

The Torah SAYS - Wool and linen. That's it. We do not say that this should extend to cotton and wool. Neither the Torah nor the Talmud, nor the Rabbis extended this mitzva beyond its Torah-stated guidelines.

How are we supposed to know which mitzvot are broader than stated, which the Rabbis have extended, and which stay as stated? The answer lies in the transmission of the Torah and the Rabbinic traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. This is an essential part of Torah Judaism. Emunat Chachamim means believing and trusting the transmission of the Oral Law is honest and reliable.

Anyone can read the words of the Torah - it has been translated into more languages than any other book in history. But only we know when a donkey is a donkey and when it is any animal. When day is daytime as opposed to nighttime or when day is a 24-hour period. When BEN means son and when it includes daughters as well. This is Emunat Chachamim.

...put tzitzit on all four-cornered garments that you wear. (As a mitzva, tzitzit was counted previously, but its juxtaposition to Shaatnez here is an example of a positive mitzva that overrides a negative; a linen garment may have woolen tzitzit attached - this applies only when all aspects of tzitzit are observed, i.e. T'cheilet. Extra note: Rambam bans wearing Shaatnez in Tzitzit, lest one fall asleep or forget to remove the garment at night, when one is exempt from Tzitzit and would be in violation of Shaatnez. This is a rabbinic prohibition of something the Torah permits)

If a man falsely accuses his (betrothed) wife of infidelity, he may not divorce her (unless she so desires) [553,554]. Penalties are also paid to the girl's family for the insult. As an offshoot of this portion of the Torah, we learn that a couple must marry with "Ketuba" and "Kiddushin" [552]. We also learn that the court must carry out the punishment of "stoning" when required [555].

Both consenting parties to a forbidden relationship are culpable. If it is possible to consider the woman an unwilling partner, then she must not be punished. We must not punish anyone who might not be responsible for their action [556]. This is the source of one of Pirkei Avot's principles: Give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

A man who rapes an unmarried woman must marry her and never divorce her (if she so desires) [557,558].

A man may not marry his father's former wife.

Certain types of castrated men have marriage restrictions [559] as do "mamzerim" [560].

Amonite and Moabite males may not marry into the "Congregation of G-d" [561], because of the cruel, inhospitable behavior of those two nations towards Israel. Nor may we ever offer those two nations peace as an alternative to war, as is required of other enemies [562].

R'VI'I - Fourth Aliya - 17 p'sukim (23:8-24)

OTOH, converts from Edom and Egypt are not to be discriminated against, but can fully integrate only from the 3rd generation on.

A military camp must be kept spiritually and physically clean. Sanitary facilities must be provided outside the camp and soldiers must be equipped with appropriate tools for maintaining proper sanitation [566,557].

An offshoot of this mitzva: entry to the Temple Mount (which has the halachic status of the Levite camp - reference here is to the area where the Beit HaMikdash and its courtyard DID NOT occupy) by people with certain types of ritual impurity is forbidden [565].

Conceptually, we must realize that G-d's presence among us is affected by our moral behavior. Thus, these mitzvot have ramifications to Jewish society as a whole, and not merely in a military setting.

A slave who has escaped his master and run to us for protection, must not be returned. We may not abuse the slave who has sought haven in Israel [568,569].

Prostitution is forbidden [570] and its revenues may not be used for sacred matters [571]. (Some include sex between unmarried partners as included in the mitzva #570.)

Although interest on personal loans may not be taken from a Jew, it is acceptable (and correct) to lend to non-Jews with interest [572,573]. This is so because society in general accepts the reasonableness of charging moderate interest on loans. Since a non-Jew can charge a Jew interest, the Torah gives us permission to take interest from them. Usury, loan sharking, would be recognized as a "universal" wrong-doing; the ban against any interest is a special spiritual requirement of the Jew.

Pledges to the Temple must be redeemed within the cycle of the three festivals [574]. It is advisable to refrain from making promises, but once made, a person must keep them [575]. (Hatarat N'darim provides an "out" for certain ill-advised promises.)

CHAMISHI - Fifth Aliya - 6 p'sukim (23:25-24:4)

Workers are entitled to eat of the food they are working with [576], but may not take extra without permission [577]. Workers mustn't reduce their efficiency by eating on the job [578].

We see a beautiful balance in the area of Torah Law as it relates to boss-worker relations. On the one hand, the worker is allowed to eat from that which he picks. On the other hand, he cannot do this while he is actually working, as this would reduce his efficiency, thereby result in stealing from his boss. On the other hand, the boss must provide breaks during the day, when the worker is allowed to eat. On the other hand, the worker may not take any of the fruits home with him, without permission. The Mishna further says that a worker should not misuse this Torah-granted right, lest his boss spread the word that others should not hire this particular worker. The Mishna also explains that an employer is required to feed his workers according to prevailing custom in his locale. Boss may not take advantage of worker, and worker may not take advantage of their boss.

If a married couple wants to end their marriage, it must be done with a proper "get" [579]. If a divorcee has remarried, and is subsequently widowed or divorced, she cannot remarry her first husband [580].

SHISHI - 6th Aliya - 9 p'sukim (24:5-13)

A man is exempt from military service during the first year of his marriage [581], during which time he is to actively see to it that his wife is happy [582].

One may not take vessels used for preparing food as a security against a loan [583]. We must be sensitive to the needs of the borrower.

Kidnapping and selling the victim is a capital offense.

We must not remove signs of "Tzora'at" [584].

Always remember what happened to Miriam. [Although Rambam and Chinuch do not count this "remember" among the 613, other mitzva-counters do.]

We must not be overly forceful in the taking of a security from a poor person who has borrowed from us [585]. We must not withhold that which has already been taken from him; if he needs it, we must return it to him [586,587].

SH'VI'I - Seventh Aliya - 28 p'sukim (24:14-25:19)

We may not take unfair advantage of our less-fortunate workers.

A day- laborer must be paid on time [588].

Close relatives may not testify against (or for) one another in criminal cases [589]. There is also the implication here that a person will not be punished for deeds of his parents or children.

One must not pervert justice even on behalf of an orphan [590].

Securities for a loan must not be taken from a widow [591].

Our experience in Egypt is to be remembered as the motive for many of these "sensitizing" mitzvot.

That which is forgotten in the fields after harvesting must be left for the poor; one should not return for it himself [592,593].

The punishment of makot (whipping) is to be administered by the courts to those found guilty of sins punishable thusly, but care must be exercised not to exceed the required number of lashes [594, 595].

Do not muzzle an animal when it is working with food [596].

The widow of a man without children is forbidden to marry anyone [597] until... She either "marries" her brother-in-law (Yibum) [598] or the relationship is broken by chalitza [599], in which case she may marry anyone else.

If person "A" is pursuing "B" to kill him, we have an obligation to save B's life even if it means killing A [600]. We cannot show mercy to the pursuer (A) [601]. If it is possible to stop "A" without killing him, we must do so - to kill him in this case would be an act of murder..

(Not only may one not use false measures, but) mere possession of false dry or liquid measures or weights is forbidden [602]. Honest weights and measures is one of the pillars of society; G-d despises those who cheat in business.

The final portion of the sedra is Zachor. We are commanded to remember what Amalek did to us on our way out of Egypt [603]. The Jewish People as a whole are commanded to destroy the remnant of Amalek from this world [604]. We must never forget Amalek [605]. Technically, these mitzvot apply to the specific Amalek nation. The idea, however, must be extended to the Amalek-types that have plagued us throughout Jewish history. These final 3 p'sukim of the sedra are reread for the Maftir.