Follow along in the AUDIO PODCAST, by clicking on the play button below, and reading along with the notes, as you listen to today's Parashat:
As you read through this week’s parashat, you will recognize that Moses literally ‘lays down the law’ – there are a lot of commandments within the parashat that cover a variety of topics – from marriage and divorce laws to safeguarding property to dealing with a rebellious son to not allowing an Ammonite or Moabite to enter the congregation of Hashem, and the list goes on. In fact, of the 54 parashot (plural for a parashat) that make up the Torah, Parashat Ki Teitzei contains the most – 74 in total, of the 613 commandments within the Torah. These are the Torah portions that can seem daunting, given a literal reading of the parashat yields 74 commandments that may or may not be applicable to some. There is a Midrash that says: “There are seventy faces to the Torah”, meaning that there are a host of ways to interpret the Torah beyond the literal, surface level interpretation, and this even applies to the analysis of just one verse.
Let’s start with the parashat name: “Ki Teitzei”, meaning “When you will go out”. Go out where? “To war against your enemies”. These are the opening words for the parashat in Deuteronomy 21:10:
כִּֽי־תֵצֵ֥א לַמִּלְחָמָ֖ה עַל־אֹיְבֶ֑יךָ
“When you go out to war against your enemies…”
Before we move forward, let’s take a quick step back as we see the term “ki teitzei” used once in last week’s parashat. In fact, the term “ki teitzei” is used only 5 times in the Torah, including once in the previous parashat, and once more in this parashat.
In Deuteronomy 20:1 (in Parashat Shoftim), we read:
כִּֽי־תֵצֵ֨א לַמִּלְחָמָ֜ה עַל־אֹיְבֶ֗יךָ וְֽרָאִ֜יתָ ס֤וּס וָרֶ֙כֶב֙ עַ֚ם רַ֣ב מִמְּךָ֔ לֹ֥א תִירָ֖א מֵהֶ֑ם כִּֽי־יְהוָ֤ה
“When you go out to battle against your enemy and you see horse and chariot – a people more numerous than you – you shall not fear them, for Hashem, your God, is with you.”
The context here is war against the enemy. Here, we read what is to be expected when the army of Israel goes out to war – that Hashem will be with them. Moses goes on several verses later (v. 4) to say that “Hashem, your God, is the One Who goes with you, to fight for you with your enemies, to save you.” It is only through Hashem that Israel will achieve victory over its enemies.
Let’s turn back to the start of this week’s parashat and read the first several verses (Deuteronomy 21:10-11): “When you will go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem, your God, will deliver him into your hand, and you will capture its people as captives…” So Israel has already claimed victory over the enemy here. Let’s continue: “and you will see among its captivity a woman who is beautiful of form, and you will desire her, and you will take her to yourself for a wife.”
Verse 12 goes on to read: “You shall bring her to the midst of your house…” There, she is to shave her head, let her nails grow and remain in a state of mourning for 30 days, only after which you may come to her and take her as a wife. On the surface, this is easy to accept since it reads as if the soldier may have had a short bout of allurement to a beautiful, foreign woman and in haste, his passions consumed him to make a rash decision to marry her; so to ensure this decision was not merely made in haste, she was to reside in the midst of his house in this deplorable state for 30 days in full view of him, after which, if he still desired her as a wife, he could take her then.
This section is quite peculiar for several reasons. Why of all things to take into consideration after a successful military victory is the focus here on what to do regarding a captive woman who is “beautiful of form”? Why not include everything else amongst the bounty – any gold or silver, animals or any other possessions? Furthermore, why would Hashem give an instruction regarding allowing the woman of an idolatrous nation to join Israel just because an Israelite soldier wants to follow through on a sexual impulse for an attractive woman? Especially on the latter point, it doesn’t make sense why Hashem would instruct this given the intense focus throughout the Torah on holiness and consecration to Hashem. Clearly there is more to this portion than meets the eye.
Let’s go back to verse 11. Most translations will read it as: “…and you will desire her”. However, the Hebrew reads: “וְחָשַׁקְתָּ֣ בָ֔הּ” (“ve’chashak’ta vah”) which literally translates “…and you will desire in her”, where the word “בָ֔הּ” (“vah”) means “in her”. If the verse wanted to say “and you will desire her”, it would have read as: “אוֹתָהּ וְחָשַׁקְתָּ֣ בָ֔הּ” (“ve’chashak’ta otah”), where “אוֹתָהּ” (“otah”) means “her”. What is to be desire “in her”? This is ultimately alluding to the woman’s soul. Sure, her outer countenance may be beautiful to the eye, but the question here is if she has a beautiful soul. This is what is most important and what provides her merit in joining the Jewish people. The soldier may have initially been allured by her outer appearance and only after 30 days come to realize that she had a beautiful soul as well, OR… perhaps he had the clarity of mind and heart to recognize that this woman also had a beautiful soul. Think about the situation: The battle is over and here the soldiers are sifting through the bounty of the expedition. They are away from home in a foreign land, and lo and behold, a beautiful captive woman is before them. Given these circumstances and this environment, are they obligated to remain in a state of holiness and consecration to Hashem? Of course! Especially if there is a decision to be made to bring this woman back to Israel and to allow her to live in the midst of the nation. On top of all of that, how many of these soldiers have a keen eye for a woman with a beautiful soul? I think the best way to answer these questions is to consider the story of one such particular beautiful woman later in Scriptures, one who came from the idolatrous nation of Moab, and desired to join the Jewish people… Ruth. The Book of Ruth never tells us what drew Boaz – a prominent Judean leader – to her, just that he was impressed by her desire to leave her idolatrous homeland of Moab by joining Naomi in returning to her homeland of Israel, and Ruth’s desire to join the Jewish people. As she said to Naomi: “Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God”. There was something that allured him to her beyond her beautiful appearance, and it most certainly had to be her beautiful soul that he saw. Ultimately, Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David and the royal and Messianic lineage of Israel.
The other use of the term “ki teitzei” in the parashat is found in Deuteronomy 23:10 where we read:
כִּֽי־תֵצֵ֥א מַחֲנֶ֖ה עַל־אֹיְבֶ֑יךָ וְנִ֨שְׁמַרְתָּ֔ מִכֹּ֖ל דָּבָ֥ר רָֽע׃ כִּֽי־יִהְיֶ֤ה בְךָ֙ אִ֔ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֛ר לֹא־יִהְיֶ֥ה טָה֖וֹר מִקְּרֵה־לָ֑יְלָה וְיָצָא֙ אֶל־מִח֣וּץ לַֽמַּחֲנֶ֔ה לֹ֥א יָבֹ֖א אֶל־תּ֥וֹךְ הַֽמַּחֲנֶֽה׃
“When a camp goes out against your enemies, you shall guard against anything evil. If there will be among you a man who will not be pure because of a nocturnal occurrence, he shall go outside the camp; he shall not enter the midst of the camp.”
Again, the context is war against your enemies. Yet, here, we are to understand that this is in the midst of war. The Israelite army is camped in a particular position throughout the expedition – perhaps they are positioned across from the enemy, or perhaps this is just a temporary encampment for the night. Here, the focus is on guarding against anything evil, and it focuses on a man who is made impure through a “nocturnal occurrence”. I won’t bother explaining what a nocturnal occurrence is, but we should take it to mean any stray, alluring thought that could possibly turn into an evil action. Again, the soldiers are away from home. While they may be in a state of military alertness and preparedness, the question is if their minds and hearts are in a state of purity and consecration to Hashem. The verse comes here to instruct the Israelites to succumb from allowing their minds and hearts to come into a state of idleness.
Should a soldier be made impure through such a nocturnal occurrence, he is not allowed to “enter the midst of the camp” for a full day, until he has properly purified himself in the evening time of the following day. King David comes to mind here. In one particular year, instead of leading the troops in battle, he opted to stay in Jerusalem, and it was because of this state of idleness that he found himself walking along the palace roof one day when he noticed below, a beautiful woman bathing – it was Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers, Uriah. King David, in his state of idleness, committed a great sin, and ultimately suffered the loss of the child, but nevertheless, he cried out to Hashem for forgiveness, Hashem accepted his penitent cry, forgave him and King David merited to carry on the line of kings through his son Solomon, born to Bathsheba.
So, altogether, we have if a man is wanting to marry the woman of beautiful form from another nation, he is to bring her to the midst of his house. While if the impure man commits a nocturnal occurrence, he is not initially allowed to enter to the midst of the camp. Do you see the external and internal factors at play here? In both cases, caution is being instructed to guard against idleness – whether through what is perceived through the visual senses of the eyes, or in thought or intention of the mind or heart.
But what are we to take from this? How do we compare ourselves to soldiers facing lustful urges – whether it has to do with the aftermath of the battle, or what is done in a state of idleness in anticipation of war on the horizon?
Keep in mind, these verses aren’t just speaking about lust and the sexual sins that are the result – they are speaking of sin in general. It is just that lust and sexual sins are very powerful forces of impurity in this world, and it doesn’t take much to see the extent of the damage that they have wreaked in society. Especially when they are directly tied to our children… to our legacy… to future generations.
Yeshua said in Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Sure, harsh words, but that is what is necessary to ensure absolute purity of thought and intention in our minds and hearts. We have to be doubly on guard within our minds and hearts than externally if we are to be victorious in snuffing out any sin in our lives. As Peter said in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the Satan walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
Paul added in Ephesians 6, tools that we have at our disposal to protect ourselves from these internal and external forces of impurity. He said: “Use all the armour and weaponry that God provides, so that you will be able to stand against the deceptive tactics of the Satan. For we do not war with flesh and blood, but with rulers and authorities, with rulers in darkness of this world, with evil spirits in high places. So take up every piece of war equipment God provides; so that when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist; and then the battle is won, you will still be standing. Therefore stand! Have the belt of truth buckled around your waist, put on righteousness for a breastplate, and wear on your feet the readiness that comes from the good news of peace. Always carry the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, that is, the Word of God.”
We are to gird ourselves in truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the Word of God, the Torah, both as defensive and offensive guards, for both the external and internal struggles, whether they are of a lustful and sexual nature or otherwise. For our hearts and minds, in particular, Paul advises protection through righteousness and salvation, respectively. As we learnt last week, righteousness comes from living according to what is right and good according to the Torah. Salvation comes to liberate our minds from the wickedness that is implanted there whether from our former lives or from what we allow our eyes or ears to process in our everyday lives.
Returning back to the external discussion of the woman of beautiful form, there are some final words to be said. Isaiah recorded in 49:6: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” Furthermore, Yeshua instructed his disciples in Mark 16:15, to: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” We must recognize what our mandate is in this world. It is not to keep to our comfortable cliques, but to actively be searching for those “beautiful souls” that reside amongst all the nations of the world. As we come into the truth of the Torah… the truth of the good news of Yeshua, we must disseminate that truth with others. However, we must be on guard to discern between those who are genuinely drawn to the truth, and those who are not.
May we go forth victoriously in battle as Hashem is with us. May we not allow our minds to become idle and lazy, either blinding us from our external mission to find and rescue those beautiful souls that reside through the world, or to protect ourselves from the internal struggles we face daily. May we be alert and vigilant, girded with all the armour and weaponry that God has given us, prepared to take on each new day with earnestness and vigor, purity and holiness. Amen.