Ki Tetze (Deuteronomy (21:10-25:19). How And What Shall We Restore?

Chuckanut Mountain. Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Ki Tetze is another fascinating portion, one in which we see the outlines of a social order rooted in affiliation and adherence to God’s words. Now there are several verses that will raise the ire of many a Torah study students this week. There are several classic examples of ethical action and inaction that may challenge much of our  modern morality. Among the verses that, to me, are of great importance are the verses from 22:1-3. The context is that if one sees someone’s ox or sheep that has gone missing, you cannot ignore it. Indeed, the charge in 22.2 is that you “shall give it back/return it to him” (v’ha’shavotah lo). Indeed, the next verse undescores this when it reminds us again that we are not allowed to ignore this charge (lo toochal l’hit’ah’leim)

Now these verses have been used as a key proof text by Maimonides to allow for the practice of medicine. If one is sick, one has lost heath and thus the interpretation goes that it is incumbent for that health to be returned  by the doctor. But we can expand what has been lost in many different ways. We are living now in the midst of a moment in time where much has been lost. SO much of what we had taken for granted has been lost, from the casual and normal personal interactions, to communal gatherings to more formal types of interactions. So the question, from our portion, is how do we restore that which has been lost?

We all know the health guidelines and hopefully we follow them, for to not follow them is also a violation of Jewish ethics that holds the preservation and sanctity of human life as a  high ideal. The isolation has also caused us to lose a sense of our common good. We have  lost a sense of civility and respect. I think many of our generation watch in sadness the daily polarization of our society, the silo type activies that are so pervasive. How did we lose the basic sense of humanity and respect for others? The portion also speaks to the respect due to the stranger, because, as are constantly reminded, we “were strangers in Egypt”. ([25:17]ff). We have lost in so many ways the basic ability to speak to and with each other. We have lost a sense of commonality and shared humanity on a shared planet. Our task is to find a way to restore this to our community. To ignore these realities is to further drive wedges between us all, and in that, society and each of us becomes lost.

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Richard F Address

About Rabbi Richard Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for all you share with us!

  2. Rabbi Linda Steigman August 24, 2020 at 4:27 pm

    “We have lost in so many ways the basic ability to speak to and with each other. We have lost a sense of commonality and shared humanity on a shared planet. Our task is to find a way to restore this to our community.” I would suggest that it is not necessarily restoration of the old ways, but finding new ways to be in commonality and in humanity with others, especially with those who have not experienced it as we have.

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