Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Torah Connection - Ki Teitze

Another difficult parsha.  I struggled with it all week, and now I need to start working on today's parsha..... so here goes!

This chapter contains rules that span many seemingly diverse topics, making it difficult to identify a coherent theme.  Some of the rules cover aspects of sexuality in rather harsh terms: transvestism and transexuality are both condemned, virginity, marriage and rape are all simply parameters in the ownership of women, and certain ethnicities are excluded in perpetuity from intermarrying into the Jewish people. Nasty stuff.

On the other hand, there are these:

Chapter 221 If you see your fellow's ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it; you must take it back to your fellow. 2 If your fellow does not live near you or you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home and it shall remain with you until your fellow claims it; then you shall give it back to him. 3 You shall do the same with his ass; you shall do the same with his garment; and so too shall you do with anything that your fellow loses and you find: you must not remain indifferent.
4 If you see your fellow's ass or ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it; you must help him raise it. (emphasis mine)
Returning a lost animal or possession is seen as highly important. But the importance rests not in the value of the object, but in training ourselves in not remaining indifferent to suffering and loss.
8 When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you do not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone should fall from it.
Responsibility for others and their safety on your property. Is there a principle of accessibility here as well?
16 You shall not turn over to his master a slave who seeks refuge with you from his master. 17 He shall live with you in any place he may choose among the settlements in your midst, wherever he pleases; you must not ill-treat him.

Compassion for humanity trumps "property rights" with respect to slaves, even in a society which accepted some forms of slavery. (Bear in mind also, that Leviticus already provided various protections for slaves, from codifying ethical treatment to legislating manumission on the Jubilee.)
25 When you enter another man's vineyard, you may eat as many grapes as you want, until you are full, but you must not put any in your vessel. 26 When you enter another man's field of standing grain, you may pluck ears with your hand; but you must not put a sickle to your neighbor's grain.

Again, the needs of a hungry man override the property rights of the farmer, but not to the point of harvesting a significant crop -- just enough to sustain life.
14 You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the communities of your land. 15 You must pay him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets, for he is needy and urgently depends on it; else he will cry to the Lord against you and you will incur guilt.
16 Parents shall not be put to death for children, nor children be put to death for parents: a person shall be put to death only for his own crime.
17 You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless; you shall not take a widow's garment in pawn. 18 Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.
19 When you reap the harvest in your field and overlook a sheaf in the field, do not turn back to get it; it shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow — in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings.
20 When you beat down the fruit of your olive trees, do not go over them again; that shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not pick it over again; that shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. 22 Always remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.
Here we see the theme of ethical treatment of those most vulnerable members of society:  the poor, the day-laborer, the stranger, the orphan and the widow. Again, we must not ignore the suffering in the world, but create mechanisms for the welfare and just treatment of those most likely to get "lost".  

22:3You must do the same to a donkey, an article of clothing, or anything else that your brother loses and you find. You will not be able to ignore it.
Vechen ta'aseh lachamoro vechen ta'aseh lesimlato vechen ta'aseh lechol-avedat achicha asher-tovad mimenu umetsatah lo tuchal lehit'alem.

What an important message for us to this day -- that we must be so attuned to others that we are not able to ignore their suffering and loss.

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