Parashat Ki Tetze

Decisions And Consequences

Parashat Ki Tetze contains numerous examples of how we should structure and categorize our decisions and their consequences.

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Some of the distinctions and consequences flowing from key decisions touched on in Ki Tetze include:

Decisions and implications for how we interact with others

Whom do I love or not love, and what is my responsibility to those in each of these categories? Which categories am I commanded to treat with loving kindness, even if I don't love them? Those with fewer decisions, less power, less responsibility: the impoverished; orphans; widows; strangers; runaway slaves. We must feed, respect, and protect these groups; pay their wages promptly; provide for them privately so as not to shame them.

Is my child obedient or not? What is the proper response to poor behavior, on an individual level or community perspective?

Where does one cross the line between propriety and criminality when dealing with criminal matters? (e.g., how long is appropriate to display the dead body of an executed criminal? How can we protect the public dignity of the convicted even while punishing them?)

If one chooses to become a homeowner, what then becomes their responsibility to protect someone on their property? (He is now responsible to anticipate what could happen in addition to what does happen: so he is commanded to build a fence on his roof to prevent someone from falling.)

Is one commanded to have integrity even if the other person does not know he is being exploited? Absolutely yes; businesspeople must have only one set of accurate and honest measures, not alternate weights used to cheat the unsuspecting customer. The other person's level of knowledge is not the measure of one's integrity: one is honest or not honest, whether or not the other person is aware of it.

Does a woman cross from being responsible for rape to not being responsible if she cries out during it--and what constitutes rape, virginity, or lack thereof, anyway? When does victimization of an individual become a community's responsibility?

Does someone move from being a whole person to being less than a human being if they lose a body part? Does it depend on what body part or how it was lost? (The answer could appear to be yes: no one whose testes are crushed--and there's even more detail--shall be admitted into the congregation of the Lord; a woman who grabs the genitals of her husband's attacker can have her hand cut off.)

Does being born to the wrong parents or under the wrong conditions make someone less of a person? How long is long enough to suffer? (Mamzers, the offspring of adultery or incest, are excluded from the people of Israel even through ten generations. Again, a seeming contradiction--for parents shall not be put to death for children, nor children put to death for parents: a person can only be put to death for their own crime.)

Who is in the category of being marriageable or not? (Lots of examples for this one; follow the bouncing ball carefully!)

When is something only partially yours, instead of completely yours or completely not yours (e.g., when reaping, if you leave wheat or olives in the field, do not go back and pick them up, but leave them for the poor, orphaned, and widowed)? Sometimes it is just too much darn responsibility to actually own something anyway (especially slaves).

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