September 14, 2019 - Elul 14, 5779
Ki Tetse: "When You Go"
Torah: Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1-10
Brit Chadashah (New Testament): Matthew 5:27-30, 1 Corinthians 1-5
When You Go Out
This Torah portion continues with many instructions for different aspects of Israel's life after conquest of the land. "Ki Tetse" means "when you go out," [i.e. to battle]. The men of Israel were to be kind towards the captive women in the areas that they conquered. In those days it was common for conquering soldiers to rape and pillage—that was seen as part of their "benefits" package. The soldiers of Israel had to be different [holy / set apart] even in how they fought. The L-rd expected the men of Israel to exhibit a high regard for women, including those of their enemies.
We see an added example of the L-rd's care for women in the instructions given to newly married men (Deuteronomy 24:5). A newly married man was exempt from military duty for one year, so that he would have the "luxury" of devoting himself exclusively to the building up of the marriage relationship. You may say, "This commandment does not apply to me—I am not preparing for active combat duty." Yet, most of us recognize that the first year of marriage requires extra time and attention as a new couple learns to adjust to each other. If we are faithful to uphold this principle, we will reap the good fruit of marriages that are well established.
This is another one of those "comfort" portions that are read between Tish'ah B'Av and Rosh HaShanah. In this portion, Isaiah tries to encourage the nation of Israel to see reality from G-d's point of view. The people of Israel were discouraged because of the exile—they were ashamed of losing their land and wondered if G-d stopped caring for them. Isaiah wanted to remind his people that even though they have been barren, especially spiritually, for a long time, they have a special place in G-d's heart and program (Isaiah 54:3-4): "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide...For you will spread out to the right and to the left..."
In our century, we have seen dramatic evidence of G-d's renewed activity on the behalf of Israel—the formation of the state of Israel (politically) and the Messianic Jewish movement (spiritually). Yet, in this passage, the L-rd challenges us not to be complacent. What He has in mind is nothing less than the spiritual restoration of the entire nation of Israel and spiritual renewal for all of mankind. We need to breathe in this "air of boldness" and "...press on toward the goal, to win the prize for which G-d has called [us]," (Philippians 3:13-14).