The next Torah portion is called “Ki Tetze” and it means “When you go out” and it goes from Deut 21.10 to 25.19. There are nearly 80 commands in this portion and v 10-21 is going to deal with domestic relations. So, the question is, what is Moses trying to teach us here?
Deut 21.10-17 talks about a new wife; 21.18-23 talks about a stubborn son and parents; 22.1-4 talks about your neighbor; 22.6-7 deals with animals; 22.8-12 deals with visitors to our house; 22.13-30 deals with the laws of morality and a wife. Deut 23.1-6 deals with people excluded from the assembly; 23.7-8 deals with how to treat the Edomites and the Egyptians. Deut 23.9-14 deals with the army and sanitation. Deut 23.15-16 deals with slaves who have run away. Deut 23.17-20 talks about prostitutes, and charging interest to an Israelite or a foreigner. Deut 23.21-30 talks about vows and Deut 23.24-25 deals with not abusing your neighbor’s fields by taking too much for yourself. Deut 24.1-5 deals with divorce and Deut 24.6-22 has various laws on kidnapping, Zara’at (Leprosy) and sensitivity and respect to others. Deut 25.1-19 deals with various laws concerning punishment, not muzzling and animal when it is working, family dealings, disagreements, cheating and just weights, and they were to remember what Amalek did to them.
Now, as you read this Torah portion there is one concept that stands out, and it is never mentioned. That concept is “Kindness.” That is what Moses is trying to get across to the people. We have kindness to a new wife (v 10-15). The stubborn son command was never carried out, and Israel openly said it wasn’t. It has to do with kindness to your children (v 18-21). Deut 21.22-23 deals with capital punishment and kindness to one cursed. Did Moses change the subject? No, Yeshua needed to come down from the cross that day according to these verses because of kindness. In Deut 22.1-4 we have kindness to our neighbor, and in Deut 22.6-7 we have kindness to animals. The Lord has a whole teaching about how to be kind to wives, children, criminals, one cursed, neighbors and animals.
Do we know why people get divorced? The basic reason is one person decided to quit being kind to the other one. No matter what the grounds for divorce was, the bottom line is one person was unkind to the other at least. That is a tragedy. A commitment has been broken and a reality that has been created by that commitment with words has been altered. The same thing happens with children. When they stop being kind, damage begins. They are punished not for crimes committed, but to prevent future crimes. There is also a warning to parents here. There is a deep responsibility in raising children. If they are not disciplined correctly, they can eventually fall into criminal activity.
When dealing with one cursed (v 22-23), no matter how evil they were, once they are dead we are to be kind to them and their remains. Did you know that when a bomb explodes in Israel there are religious people who go out with rubber gloves to pick up the pieces of those killed, including the bomber? The remains are given a proper burial. It doesn’t matter if it was the bomber or the victim. Why? They are doing a work of kindness and respect. The dead have no more choices to make or a theology to defend anymore. They are in eternity and experiencing the truth of it all.
Another reason you don’t leave a body up on a tree is that it would be degrading to the “King.” It would be disgraceful to God because the criminal was created in the image of God. There is a story about a set of twins, and one was a king and the other was a thief. The thief got caught and was killed and left hanging. As people walked by they said, “The king has been killed.” Disgracing a fellow human being is like disgracing God.
What about kindness to our neighbor (22.1-4)? We are to help him. However, we are not under any obligation to do the owner’s work for him. The verse says “help him” and this excludes one who will not do anything for himself. This also applies to spiritual things. If a person works to improve himself and his knowledge, or his walk with the Lord, then heaven helps him. But if its only lip service, how can the Lord be asked to intervene? Look at Deut 21.10 again. It says, “When you go out” to battle. The question is, “Who goes out?” The answer is, we do, but God gives us the victory in battle. That is why we need to know the concepts associated with spiritual warfare. You are going to be in a battle whether you want to or not, whether you are prepared for one or not. But, we all will have to go out for war. Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be? And if I am only for myself, what am I?”
When it comes to kindness to animals, there is a common thread that is seen in serial killers and sadistic crimes. They previously abused animals and if you can’t show kindness to small animals (and big ones), you won’t show kindness to a human being either. We learn that we cannot take everything for ourselves in v 6-7. We must learn to set apart our own interest and take what we need and send the mother away to lay more eggs for someone else’s benefit. The mother stayed with her eggs because you normally cannot catch a bird. Don’t take advantage of her motherly instincts and eat her, too. Why? Kindness to animals.
The Torah says we are to show kindness to strangers, travelers, non-Jews, widows, orphans and the disadvantaged. 1 Tim 5.1-16 says Paul taught this principle. He said we should take care of widows in their congregations. If the widow meets the the qualifications put forth there. What would happen if congregations did that instead of building huge buildings and massive TV ministries?
How can we show kindness to a widow or orphan? People say, “We’re too busy and there are no finances for that in our church (or family). They may become dependent on us.” But the Lord will test us in order to teach us kindness. He will send us some “strange neighbors.” Kindness is what this Torah portion is all about. We should train our eyes to see with an “ein tov” (good/generous eye) and we should remind ourselves of the value of others and their true worth. We should also remember the times when others showed kindness to us.
Being in a congregation is like a marriage. At first everyone “loves” one another and you have bare necessities, very little. You may meet in homes or a cheap hotel room for awhile, and you make do with the resources you have. But then comes a little prosperity and familiarity with each other, and the first thing that goes is kindness. After that things get “theological.” Those people don’t “believe like I do.” It isn’t long before people are at each other’s throats and they all think they are “obeying the Lord.” However, nobody is given the benefit of the doubt. Then we believe “rumors” and “innuendos.” Then the gossip starts and spreads like gangrene and then the false accusations. After that comes the final stage, “No kindness from me. They were never my teachers anyway.”
We also need to be kind to our spouses and children, with the “cursed” and those who have passed away. We should be kind to animals, our neighbors, the stranger among us, the traveler, widows, orphans and the disadvantaged. 2 Pet 1.7 says that in between “godliness” and “love” there is “brotherly kindness.” We cannot love if we are not kind. If we say we “love the Lord” but we “hate our brother” we don’t get it. We can maintain any relationship through kindness.
There are lots of reasons to get into disputes with people. They may misbehave and don’t do the right thing. They may forget something and make mistakes. We don’t have to love their behavior but we can be kind in a dispute. The Middle east peace talks are a perfect example. They can’t even be kind to one another anymore. They won’t shake hands or even be in the same room. The Prophets would tell the people to “return to God (teshuvah) and observe kindness and justice” (Hos 12.6).
Micah 6.8 says, “Do justice, love kindness.” Zech 7.9 says, “Dispense true justice and practice kindness.” Kindness was the one common trait when the Prophets preached teshuvah (repentance). Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5.22). Think about how to be kind as we read these verses. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is something we must remember. It is especially true with those who are closest to us. We must show kindness in families, congregations, work environments and nature.
Now, let’s go back to Deut 24.1 and look at the concept of divorce very briefly. The word “indecency” (NASB) or “uncleanness” (KJV) there is the word “ervah” and it means anything indecent, naked, shame or improper behavior. The Greek equivalent is “porneia” as seen in Matt 5.32, which means, “But I say to you that everyone who divorces (puts away, sends out, separates) his wife, except for uncleanness (the “ervah” of Deut 24.1) causes her to commit adultery and whoever marries a woman who is separated but not divorced commits adultery.” It does not mean adultery (which is the Hebrew “naaph”) or any of the “uncleanness acts” listed in Lev 18. Adultery was punishable by death (didn’t need to waste money on a divorce) and the acts of Lev 18 was punishable by karet, either by man or God. The word in Deut 14.1 is “ervah” and this word carries the meaning there is something that makes their life together impossible. To stay together would lead to cruelty and abuse. Yeshua never said if you marry one who is divorced, you have committed adultery. Deut 24.1-5 clearly says that a divorced person can remarry.
In Matt 5.32 and 19.1-6, Yeshua is freeing these verses (and others) from all the false interpretations of some of the Jewish religious leaders. There is no case for divorce in the Torah for the sexual sins listed in Lev 18, but those guilty were to be cut off from their people either by man or God (Lev 18.29), and there is no divorce for one who has committed adultery. The penalty for adultery was death.
However, divorce was allowed in the Torah for certain reasons, and “ervah” (that which makes life together impossible) is one of them. Exo 21.10-11 says that a divorce is also allowed in the case where the husband does not provide for food, clothing and conjugal rights. Sometimes it is the will of God that people get a divorce (Ezra 10.1-44; Neh 13.23-31). People have been unkind to those who have had a divorce because they do not understand the Scriptures and have misinterpreted many verses on this subject (as they do with verses on other subjects, too). We should show kindness to those who have gone through such a tragedy and not teat them like lepers. People can show kindness to people with all sorts of previous sin, but when one says they are divorced, they are treated differently. This is because of all false teaching that is out there. Remember, God is divorced, too (Isa 50.1; Jer 3.8).
We will pick up with the next Torah reading called Ki Tavo” meaning “When you enter in” in Part 20.