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The Torah's Weekly Portions
Deuteronomy/Dvarim - Ki Tetze 101
Posted September, 2000 - Reb Yosef
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Ki Tetze begins at Perek Chav-Aleph, pasuk yud (Chapter 21, verse 10) and continues through and includes all of Perek Chav-Hay (Chapter 25).  Before getting into this week's Parashah, it seems appropriate to cover a couple of important points.

This past week, we entered the Hebrew month of Elul.  Elul is the last month of the Hebrew year and directly precedes the High Holy Days.  Oddly, the term "high holy days" hardly expresses the Hebrew reference of Ya-mim No-ra-im meaning the "Days of Awe."  In reality, it is we that should be awed by these particular days.  What makes Elul important?  In order to understand that, we have to understand Rosh Hoshanah (the beginning of the year) and Yom Kippur (the day of atonement).  It is said that God judges us on Rosh Hoshanah and seals that judgment on Yom Kippur.  In other words, God determines in advance how the new year will go for us and His judgment and decree is set during these Days of Awe.  Thus, it is somewhat important that we try to bring ourselves to a little more spiritual point in preparation for this event.  Most of us try to find some way of doing "tshuvah" - acts of betterment.  Personally, I have two things that I do.  The first is that I say the entire Sefer T'hillim (Book of Psalms) during the month of Elul.  For those who are interested, Jewish Celebrations has added a calendar detailing which prakim (chapters) should be said each day in order to complete this task in an efficient manner.  That calendar will continue to be offered even after Elul.  Second, I try to think of those organizations that could use financial assistance and give tzedakah (charity) at this time.  On that note, it's important to point out that the word "tzedakah" does not translate to charity.  Rather, it means justice.  In essence, Judaism is a form of self-directed socialism.  Unlike governments who have attempted this idea, Judaism allows each person to decide how to express this sense of justice - providing for those who do not have or who are in need.  Jewish Celebrations lists one or two non-profit organizations that do tremendous work for the Jewish community at large, including Zichron Shlomo. (Zichron Shlomo Refuah Fund - helps children who have been stricken with cancer, and their families.)

On to Yom Kippur - the most misunderstood of all the Jewish holy days.  Most people, many Jews included, believe that Yom Kippur is the day that we have an opportunity to atone for our transgressions.  This could not be further from the truth.  As is pointed throughout the Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures), we have an opportunity to immediately atone for transgressions by, as the Psalmist points out, going to God with a broken spirit and asking for forgiveness.  Yom Kippur is a very special day because on this particular day, each of us has an opportunity to do such intense tshuvah through our prayers, that those efforts can atone for the transgressions of others, all of Klal Yisrael.

Now, onto Ki Tetze…

The focus for this week is on Perek Chav-Bet (Chapter 22), psukim aleph through gimel (verses 1-3).  They read as follows:

1. You shall not see the ox of your brother or his sheep or goat cast off, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely return them to your brother:

2. If your brother is not near you and you do not know him, then gather it inside your house, and it shall remain with you until your brother inquires after it, and you return it to him:

3. So shall you do for his donkey, so shall you do for his garment, and so shall you do for any lost article of your brother that may become lost from him and you find it; you shall not hide yourself:

One of the great things about the Torah is its specificity.  However, it is necessary to read all of the Torah to see this.  When we take individual verses, or worse - parts of verses, we seldom gain the correct meaning.  The point of these three verses is contained in perek gimel (verse 3) - "so shall you do for his garment, and so shall you do for any lost article. . ."  The intention is to treat other people's property with the same respect that we ourselves would want.  Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch covers this concept with:

The duty imposed here of caring for and returning an animal whose owner had lost it, or, as the law is extended in v. 3, any other lost property, only applies if, as it says here in the case of animals (straying) if the conditions make it quite clear, that the animal or the article is lost.  But if it seems that it was placed there, where it is found, even if there is some doubt about it, it may not be moved.  But if one had taken it away and kept it so that in the meantime the owner would have had time to come and fetch it, one may not then simply place it back, but must keep it carefully, and, if it is of such a nature that proof of identification is possible, public notices of its having been found must be made.

Masekhta Bava Metzia (Talmudic Tractate Bava Metzia) goes into tremendous detail concerning conditions and requirements concerning the issue of "lost things."  It is an interesting read in terms of legal hair-splitting.  

In any event, the point here is clearly illustrated - we are responsible for each other in many ways.  To quote my mother, may her memory be blessed, "It is not enough that we try to be our brother's keeper, we must be our brother's brother."


Translations in Torah Portions of the week are partially taken from the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash and from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash

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