Parshat Ki Teitzei
a.k.a (Deuteronomy 21: 10 – 25: 19)
Moses continued telling the people what God had commanded. If a soldier saw a beautiful woman
among the conquered people, and wished to marry her, then he had to bring her home where she was to be given
a month to mourn the loss of her father and mother. After that, the man could consummate the marriage. If the
man did not experience fulfilment, then he could release the woman. However, he was not to sell her or regard
her as merchandise.
If a man had two wives and hated one while loving the other, he could not reduce the inheritance
of his first-born son if he was the son of the hated wife. This son was to get the double portion that
belonged to the first-born.
If parents had a disobedient and rebellious son, then they had to bring him out before the
elders of the city and denounce him as a glutton and a drunkard. The elders were then to stone him to death
to remove the stain of evil from the community.
If any man was hanged, his body was not to remain on the tree all night. He had to be buried
that same day because a hanged body was cursed.
If a man’s brother’s ox or sheep went astray, the man had to restore it to his brother as soon
as possible. The same applied to other possessions.
No woman or man was permitted to wear the clothes of the opposite sex. Cross-dressing was an
abomination before God.
When a house was built, there had to be a parapet around the roof so that if anyone fell from
the roof no guilt should fall upon the householder.
A man couldn’t plant two types of seed in his vineyard. No-one could plough with both an ox and
an ass yoked together. A person could not wear a garment made from different materials. Tassels had to be
placed on the four corners of a man’s vest/under-garments.
If a man hated his new wife, and made an accusation that she wasn’t a virgin on her marriage
night, the woman’s parents had to present evidence of her virginity to the elders – a blood-stained
cloth. The accuser would then be reprimanded by the elders of
the city, and fined a hundred shekels of silver that was payable to the bride’s father. And she would
continue to be the man’s wife and he would never be allowed to divorce her. But if the woman was found not to
have been a virgin, then she was to be stoned to death at the door of her father’s house.
If a virgin was betrothed to be married, but slept with another man from the city, then both
were to be brought to the gate of the city and stoned to death. But if a man found a woman in the fields and
raped her, only he would be put to death. The woman was to be regarded in the same way as a victim of murder
– no sin could be laid at her door. If a man slept with a woman that was not engaged, then he had to pay the
woman’s father fifty shekels of silver and take her as his wife. He was not permitted ever to divorce
No man was permitted to sleep with his father’s wife. A man whose testicles had been crushed or
his penis cut off could not enter the assembly of the Lord. Neither could a bastard nor his offspring for ten
Any man who was unclean owing to a nocturnal omission had to leave the camp. He could return at
sunset after he had washed himself. A person who wanted to relieve himself had to go outside the camp and
then cover up his excrement after digging a hole with an implement. There could be no unclean thing within
the camp since God walked there.
If a slave took refuge with a person, that person was not to return him to his master. Instead,
the man taking refuge could live among his protector’s people, wherever he chose, and was not to be
There were to be no temple prostitutes or sodomites within the community.
No-one was allowed to charge a fellow Israelite interest, but one was permitted to charge a
When a man became displeased with his wife on account of finding something indecent about her,
he was permitted to give her a certificate of divorce and send her from his house. She was then able to
become another man’s wife. And if that second man divorced her, or died, she was not allowed to return to her
A newly married man was exempt from military service for a year and could not be charged with
any other business. His duty was to stay at home and keep his new wife happy.
Any man who kidnapped a fellow Israelite, enslaving him or selling him, had to be put to death
once the matter was discovered.
In the event of a leprosy outbreak, the people were to follow the instructions of the Levites
When a man made a loan to a neighbour, he was not permitted to enter the man’s house to get the
item being offering as a pledge. If the neighbour was poor and offered a cloak, or some such garment, the man
receiving the pledge was not to sleep in it. Rather, he was to return it before sunset so that the neighbour
could sleep in it.
No-one was allowed to oppress a hired servant, be he a fellow Israelite or a foreigner. His
wages were to be paid before sunset because he was counting on the money.
Parents could not be put to death for the sins of their children, nor children for the sins of
their parents. Each person was accountable for their own wrongdoings. Justice was due to both aliens and
Bundles of wheat forgotten in a harvested field had to be left there for foreigners, orphans and
The people were reminded that they had been slaves in Egypt and were therefore obliged to be
kind and considerate to others in positions of weakness or need.
If any case between disputing parties came to court, the innocent person had to be acquitted and
the guilty party condemned. If the guilty party deserved a beating, the judge had to get him to lie down and
be beaten in his presence. The number of lashes had to be appropriate to the offence. No more than forty
lashes were permitted.
If two brothers were sharing a property and one of them died without a son, his widow was not to
be married to anyone outside the family. Her husband’s brother had to marry her and perform his late
brother’s duties. The first son the woman had was to take the name of the dead brother so that his name would
be carried on among the people of Israel.
If a man did not want to marry his late brother’s wife, the woman was to bring the matter before
the elders at the town gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to carry on his late brother’s name and
refuses to fulfil his duties towards me.” The elders of the town would then call him before them. If he
persisted in his refusal, the brother’s widow was to go up to him in the presence of the elders, pull off one
of his sandals and spit in his face, saying, “This is what happens to a man who refuses to continue his
brother’s lineage.” The man’s family would be known as the “family of a man without a
If two men fought and the wife of one came to help, and grabbed the other man’s genitals, her
hand then had to be cut off. No pity was to be shown to her.
Commentary on the 49th parsha (portion) of the Torah. The Torah consists of the
five books of Moses, the first part of the Old Testament.
To get to grips with this parsha, our Supermaven, Sigmund Albert Spinoza, interviews
Methuselah Solomon (an Ancient Elder). Supermaven is a modern philosopher who is trying to understand Judaism
and how we got where we are.
He will do this every week by investigating the Old Testament.
SAS: OK, well, let’s look at
some inconsistencies here before we get to the silliness, the capriciousness, the unfairness and. the
MS: Thank you for the respect
you show God’s word.
SAS: For one thing, it’s not
god’s word. It’s an interpretation, rehash and low fidelity message from Moses, at best. Methuselah, bastards
and their offspring for ten generations are not allowed to enter the Assembly. Am I
MS: You are. What of
SAS: But fathers must not be
punished for the crimes of their sons, and sons are not allowed to be punished for the crimes of their
fathers. Is that correct?
MS: It is. I think that’s eminently reasonable. Surely you agree?
SAS: I agree. But bastards --
Can we agree to use another term?—and their descendants have to be punished for ten generations? What did
these poor bastards do?
MS: The man who impregnated a
woman outside of wedlock committed an abomination against the Lord. And the woman is lucky she was not stoned
SAS: And the man didn’t have
to take responsibility either. So the woman is shunned and humiliated and for ten generations the descendants
are regarded as second-class citizens. I don’t like it, Methuselah.
MS: No-one really cares about
what you like or not, actually. The point is that God expressly ordered that lewdness among the Israelites
was forbidden. Bastards are an offence against the word of God.
SAS: What rubbish! The
so-called abomination offended the institutional structure. Why must the descendants be punished? Why not the
man and woman involved?
MS: Imagine if everybody did
it. What would the world come to?
SAS: Oh, I can. The world
would stay pretty much the same. Some people like being married, some don’t. Some women want to have
children, with or without a husband. What’s your big
MS: My objection? Who will care for the children? Who will care for the women?
Who will pass on the laws of God? The entire community would fall to pieces without this structure. Each of
these rules has to be followed to the letter, or else this community will perish.
SAS: Well, that might not be
such a bad thing. It couldn’t have been much fun to be a woman in those days. You talk of fairness! The
complete disparity between the treatment of men and woman in your society is evident here,
Methuselah. Boy, is it a man’s world!
MS: You attack this passage
for that! How ironic! It is laden with examples of how women’s rights were
SAS: Well, they were
protected because they were men’s property. And this lot love property rights, don’t they? Look at the
business of a man having to marry his dead brother’s wife. The man’s first wife must have loved that. And the
brother’s wife hardly had a choice. Accept it or be chased out of the community. And the man himself, the
sandalless one? How must he have felt if he didn’t like his sister-in-law? How does everyone get to deserve
this situation which none of them has done anything to bring about?
MS: How many times do I have
to explain to you that these rules were designed to keep the community together and strong? Survival was
SAS: How does not mixing wool
and linen in one garment keep the community strong and united?
MS: It’s a system, Sigmund!!
It is a whole package. Imagine for a moment that every person in the community abided by these rules. Would
there be problems? Would people suffer? Would the community be weaker or stronger?
SAS: I can see I’m talking to
someone who thinks the solution to an independent free thinking society is death by
MS: Sigmund, it is the
principle of fairness and rectitude, of the greater good and of more protection for everyone. No-one is left
out, no-one is hungry. Don’t you understand that?
SAS: So, what’s the big
objection to cross-dressing? Why should it be up there with rape?
MS: Don’t even start with
your nonsense now. It is against the laws of God and the laws of nature.
SAS: What’s nature got to do
with clothes? Why on earth do you think that god would care how people dressed, or if people were attracted
to their own sex? Why shouldn’t your holy men love other holy men just like them? The whole basis of your
cult seems to be to eschew difference and embrace only your own, in any event. It seems to me that it follows
that men are tacitly encouraged to love those who are just like them. The laws hardly encourage the men of
Israel to think of women as people just like themselves. And don’t ask me for details. They’re all there in
MS: You’re a very dangerous,
possibly unbalanced man. I hope you can keep these crazy opinions to yourself.
SAS: Tolerance, Methuselah, I
have given you the benefit of the doubt. I’m prepared to entertain the idea of this fiction of yours as
though it were real. I think you owe me the courtesy of listening to my opinions
If you’d like to know more about the real history of our
extended Jewish family, read on.
The Second Intifada (2000 – 2005): Part Two
The Taba Summit in January 2001 failed to produce a peaceful settlement between Israel
and the PLO. Arafat and Barak wouldn’t get another chance to negotiate a settlement – Barak was defeated in
February’s election and Ariel Sharon became Prime Minister. Sharon made it clear that he wasn’t prepared to
In May 2001 Israel intercepted the vessel Santorini that was carrying weapons to the Popular Front for the Liberation
of Palestine. Israel’s response was swift. Warplanes attacked security force targets in the territories and
12 Palestinians were killed.
This tit-for-tat world was rocked a short while later when a suicide bomber blew
himself up in a Tel Aviv club, killing 21 Israelis. Most were high school students. When another
weapons-laden boat, the Karine A, was captured in January 2002,
Israel suspected Arafat’s involvement.
A number of suicide bombings followed, including the Passover Massacre in Netanya.
Israel launched Operation Defense Shield which killed 497 Palestinians, according to the UN. During this
Operation, the Battle of Jenin was waged for just over a week in a Palestinian refugee camp. The United Nations rejected Palestinian claims that the Israelis had
conducted a massacre at Jenin, but Amnesty International concluded that members of the IDF had committed war
crimes. The official Palestinian death toll was placed at 52, with IDF losses assessed at a similar
In April and May, a 38-day standoff occurred in Bethlehem where Palestinian militants
and civilians took refuge inside a church. Israeli snipers killed seven of those inside. The siege ended with
the deportation of 13 militants said to be terrorists from Europe.
A dramatic development took place at the start of 2003. Israeli intelligence produced
documentary evidence that Arafat had contributed $20,000 to al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. The USA immediately
demanded democratic reforms in the Palestinian Authority and demanded that a prime minister independent of
Arafat be appointed. Under pressure, Arafat appointed Mahmoud Abbas as PM. At this point the USA pushed hard
for the implementation of the “road map” for peace that had been drawn up by the USA itself, Russia, the
European Union and the United Nations. The “road map” involved three phases: firstly, an end to Palestinian
violence, an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities and no more settlement expansion; secondly, an
international conference to support Palestinian economic recovery and then a progression towards a
Palestinian state; finally, a second conference where final borders would be agreed and peace deals with
The plan encountered problems from the start. While Israel released 100 Palestinian
prisoners in June as a sign of good faith, Ariel Sharon would not commit to a settlement freeze which he
believed was impossible to implement. After attempts at shuttle diplomacy by US president George W. Bush,
Palestinians resumed attacks against Israel and Israel responded by attacking Hamas in Gaza with the help of
By the end of June, the Palestinian Authority, Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Fatah all
declared a truce and Israel left northern Gaza. The peace push was back on. On 1 July 2003, Sharon and Abbas
met in Jerusalem and committed themselves to the “road map”. The USA announced a $30 million aid package to
the Palestinian Authority for infrastructural rebuilding. The situation imploded, however, and Israel and
Hamas were soon fighting again. Israeli forces managed to kill a few high-ranking leaders of Hamas and
Islamic Jihad. Israel was then rocked by the Jerusalem bus 2 massacre in which 23 people were killed and 136
Israeli forces killed or captured the
Abbas resigned in September 2003 and was replaced by Ahmed Qurei.
Israel started building the Israeli West Bank barrier. The stated aim was to prevent
Palestinian terrorists from entering Israeli cities. However, On October 4, a suicide bombing in a Haifa
restaurant killed 21 Israelis.
By the end of 2003, Israel had not yet withdrawn from Palestinian areas occupied since
September 2000 and settlement expansion had not been frozen. Terrorism continued. The road map looked like a
2004 saw Israeli forces operating mainly in Rafah in Gaza. Operation Rainbow was aimed
at destroying tunnels used for smuggling as well as stopping weapons shipments. The operation was denounced
by many in the media following the deaths of civilians, including protestors.
Operation Days of Penitence was launched in late September following more Qassam
rocket attacks on Israel. More than 100 Palestinians were killed. Of the 42 non-combatants killed, more than
20 were said to be children.
On 11 November, Yasser Arafat died in Paris. Hamas vowed to continue its attacks while
Mahmoud Abbas tried to unite Palestinian factions and broker peace. Early in 2005, Abbas was elected
president of the Palestinian Authority. He campaigned on a platform of peaceful negotiations with Israel.
Ariel Sharon, however, froze diplomatic contact and said Abbas needed to stop the terror
Abbas tried by sending Palestinian police into northern Gaza and managing to reduce
significantly the number of Qassam rocket attacks.
On 8 February 2005, Abbas and Sharon met at a four-way summit that included Jordan and
Egypt, and announced a truce. Sharon released 900 Palestinian prisoners and withdrew forces from West Bank
towns. The truce was only partially successful, with Hamas and Islamic Jihad prominent in ongoing actions
In early 2006, Hamas won a big majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council. It
announced that it was recommencing attacks on Israel. It refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist and
declared the Holocaust a Jewish conspiracy. The West immediately imposed sanctions against the Hamas-led
Palestinians, starving them of foreign aid.
The Gaza-Israeli conflict that ensued is generally considered separately from the
Second Intifada, which ended thanks to 2005’s peace initiatives.
Here follows a discussion on this historical segment by Dad, Chaya and
CHAYA: It seems a little
arbitrary to say that the Second Intifada ended in 2005 when it was business as usual in Gaza. I guess,
however, that Israel’s war with Hamas has opened up a separate chapter in the ongoing
DAD: There are many ways to
slice and dice this period of recent history, Chaya. Some people even say the Second Intifada hasn’t ended
yet. I think they’re wrong in the sense that an Intifada is, by its very nature, an “uprising” and uprisings
only have a few years of momentum in them. I do think that Hamas’ victory in 2006 signaled a new phase in the
Middle East conflict. Hamas rejected negotiation and made it clear that it would accept nothing except the
destruction of the Jewish state.
CHAYA: So, I suppose Israel
and the USA should try to polarize Hamas and Fatah, and forge a solution with Fatah, these days the more
DAD: They haven’t needed to
polarize them – they have been doing it themselves. There has been a so-called Conflict of Brothers between
them since 2006 and it hasn’t been very brotherly. That’s why it’s also called Wakseh by Palestinians, which means “humiliation” or
CHAYA: It’s certainly
humiliating for them to splinter like they have, and not present a united front to Israel, USA and the world.
It’s hugely advantageous for Israel, though. Internal rivalry makes the Palestinians weaker. Plus, the
Israeli government has a unique chance to broker a settlement with Fatah that excludes Hamas. That would
place Hamas in a very difficult position – if it stayed outside of a settlement it would appear more than
ever like a terrorist organization that was impervious to any peace deal.
DAD: Well, a terrorist
organization is basically what it is, in my opinion.
BEN: I’ve read that the USA
provided funds, weapons and training for Fatah after that 2006 election, and more than 700 Palestinians were
killed in internal fights during the next 18 months.
DAD: That’s right, Ben. It is
estimated that 118 were killed at the Battle of Gaza in which Hamas won control of the Gaza Strip in June
2007. Fatah holds sway on the West Bank. Both groups operate in each other’s strongholds though. Governments
in both regions regularly round up and detain each other’s supporters.
BEN: What does Fatah want to
DAD: As I understand it, it
wants to see a Palestinian state set up in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. They don’t want such a
state to be established on just any terms. In spite of their more moderate position, Fatah’s constitution
calls for the “complete liberation of Palestine”. The Israeli government would have to make dramatic
concessions before Fatah signed up to a two-state solution. A lot of fancy tap dancing would have to be
BEN: I saw that in December
2009, when Israeli deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon was making peace overtures to all Israel’s Arab
neighbors, Palestinian Authority officials decided to look at ways of starting a third
DAD: I saw that. “The
resistance to Israel continues,” said Fatah.
CHAYA: Well that doesn’t
sound very hopeful!
BEN: So much for your idea of
Israel hammering out a quick deal with that “nice” Fatah and sidelining the “evil” Hamas in the renegade
state of Gaza.
DAD: A key difference is that Fatah is not currently recognized as a terrorist
organization by any government while Hamas is viewed as one by the West.
BEN: In real terms, though, I
think they’re cut from the same cloth. At the end of the day the “Brothers” in Hamas and Fatah have much more
in common than Fatah and the Israeli-Western peace lobby.
CHAYA: Which means that
everyone will continue to live on a knife edge. The tragic thing is that life in Jerusalem and Israel has a pulse and vibrancy that is compelling
and exotic. Yet with it comes this eternal threat of violence and the need to send young people into
DAD: I’m a secular person, but when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, I’m tempted to throw up
my hands and say, “God, only you can fix this mess!”
BEN: God has entered the building? It’s time to eat.
Every Shabbat we read five short sayings that express, with typically Jewish wit and
humor, insightful reflections on this life of ours.
Here are tonight’s sayings:
· The world is beautiful, shining bright, and easy – but for whom?
· To have money is not always so Ai-yi-yi,
but not to have it is Oy-oy-oy!
· It was hard for Satan alone to mislead the world, so he appointed rabbis in different
places (Nachman of Bratslav)
· Worms eat you when you’re dead; worries eat you up alive
· Let bunions grow on his bunions, and on his carbuncles – boils.
Celebration of Great Lives
Every Friday night we celebrate the achievements of our Jewish family in contributing
to changing the world for the better and having an extraordinary impact on those around
Born Meir Henoch Mojszewicz Wallach-Finkelstein in Bialystok in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, he joined the Russian Social Democratic
Labor party in 1898 and adopted the pseudonym of Maxim Litvinov. In 1900 he became a member of the Kiev party
committee and was arrested along with other committee members in 1901. He escaped and fled to Switzerland
where he became editor of the revolutionary newspaper Iskra. He
joined the Bolsheviks in 1903 and returned to Russia. Following the 1905 revolution he became editor of the
SDLP newspaper New Life. He fled Russia again in 1906 and spent
the next 10 years in London. After 1917’s October Revolution, Lenin appointed Litvinov the Soviet
government’s representative in Britain. Arrested in 1918, he was swapped in a prisoner exchange and went back
to Russia. In 1919 he published the book The Russian Revolution: Its
Rise and Meaning. He became a roving ambassador for Russia and negotiated several key agreements such as
Litvinov’s Pact in 1929. In 1930 he was made Minister of Foreign Affairs by Stalin and in 1933 persuaded the
USA to recognize the Soviet government. He went on to represent Russia in the League of Nations (1934-1938).
On 3 May 1939 Stalin replaced him with Vyacheslav Molotov, and Jews in the ministry were purged. This opened
the way for the ill-fated treaty with Hitler. Litvinov was able
to make a comeback as Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs, and he went on to become Ambassador to the United States from
1941 to 1943. He is recognized as the diplomat who most successfully normalized Russia’s relations with the
world following its epoch-making revolution.
This Russian-Jewish economist and Nobel Prize winner was born in Munich and entered the
University of Leningrad at 15. By 19 he had earned the equivalent of a Masters degree in Economics. A
supporter of free speech and academic freedom, he was arrested several times by the Cheka. He was only
allowed to leave Russia because he was believed to be suffering from a terminal case of sarcoma. He went to
the University of Berlin where, in 1928, he was awarded a PhD in Economics. In 1932 Leontief joined the
Department of Economics at Harvard, becoming Professor in 1946. He was one of the first researchers to use
computers to create mathematical models for economic sectors. He set up the Harvard Economic Research Project
in 1948 and directed it until 1973, the year in which he won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences
for his work on input-output tables. In 1975 he moved to New York University where he founded and directed
the Institute for Economic Analysis. He is most famous for his linear activity model of General
Equilibrium and the resulting input-output analysis.
We will now sing a traditional song to conclude our Shabbat celebration. You have a
copy of the words, so please join in as we sing.
The song is sung
Farewell and an Invitation
Thank you for coming together to share our Shabbat. May you go out into the new week
with renewed strength, confidence and happiness.
We now cordially invite you to join us for some coffee and cake.