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Kee Teitzei Summaries

Kee Teitzei 5777-2017

“Lessons from the Wayward Son”

The laws of the rebellious child have much to teach the members of the gluttonous society in which we live.

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Kee Teitzei 5776-2016

“The Mitzvah of Burying the Dead”

Although it seems odd, the requirement to provide a proper, respectful and swift burial for the deceased is derived from the law of a capital criminal who executed for his vile actions. Its unusual origin, only underscores its importance.

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Kee Teitzei 5775-2015

“When a Brother Dies Childless”

In parashat Kee Teitzei we learn of the law of the levirate marriage, requiring the surviving brother to betroth his brother’s widow. The laws of terminating that obligation are also taught.

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Kee Teitzei 5774-2014

“Restoring Lost Possessions–Revisited”

The mitzvah of returning a lost article is not a matter to be taken lightly. The Italian commentator Menachem Recanati argues that in certain instances restoring a person’s lost article can be the equivalent of restoring a person’s life.

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Kee Teitzei 5773-2013

“The ‘Mitzvah’ of Divorce, Revisited”

While stability in family life is a much hoped-for ideal, Judaism was remarkably ahead of its time in understanding that an unhappy husband or wife can sometimes not be reconciled, and that marriages must, at times, be terminated.

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Kee Teitzei 5772-2012

“The Sanctity of the Camp of Israel”

Among the many revolutionary ideas found in this week’s Torah portion is the idea of the sanctity of the camp of Israel. The Torah calls on the Jewish people to ensure that sanctified values be established in their homes, permeate their schools, be reflected in their places of work, and be conspicuous in all their endeavors.

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Kee Teitzei 5771-2011

“Sending the Mother Bird Away”

The Biblical commentators engage in a rigorous debate regarding the rationale behind the mitzvah of “Sheeluach Ha’Kayn“–sending the mother bird away from the nest when taking the chicks or the eggs. Most agree that is has to do with mercy, but not all agree that it is G-d’s mercy. They also differ over what is meant to be the ultimate purpose of this mitzvah.

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Kee Teitzei 5770-2010

“Caring for Workers and Domestic Animals”

The Torah goes far beyond that which might be expected in order to protect laborers and animals from unfair labor practices. Indeed, the Torah is deeply concerned with fostering a moral society, particularly in the workplace.

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Kee Teitzei 5769-2009

Ben Sorer U’Moreh–The Rebellious Son”

The case of Ben Sorer U’moreh, the prodigal son, is one of the most complex in Jewish law. Whether the Ben Sorer U’moreh actually existed is subject to dispute. Nevertheless, there is much to learn from the rules governing the treatment of the prodigal child.

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Kee Teitzei 5768-2008

“The ‘Mitzvah’ of Divorce”

Parashat Kee Teitzei includes the “mitzvah” to divorce one’s wife. Upon further elucidation we see that this applies only when the spouses find life with each other to be incompatible. Nevertheless, Judaism believes that in order to establish a sacred and holy society, marriages must thrive in a sacred and holy environment. If not, it is a mitzvah to divorce one’s spouse.

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Kee Teitzei 5767-2007

“Concern for the Property of Others”

Among the many mitzvot featured in parashat Kee Teitzei is the mitzvah of restoring lost objects to their rightful owners. Although it seems to be a basic common-sense commandment, it is still listed in the Torah as a definitive commandment because of the great effort often required to restore lost objects. Greed and laziness may also deter some from the proper fulfillment of this important mitzvah.

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Kee Teitzei 5766-2006

“The Mitzvah of Marriage, Kiddushin and Ketuvah”

In parashat Kee Teitzei, we find that a positive mitzvah, the mitzvah of marriage, is derived from a negative mitzvah, the prohibition of defaming one’s wife. With the mitzvah of marriage, the ketubah, a most remarkable ancient document to guarantee women’s rights, is also introduced.

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Kee Teitzei 5765-2005

“The Revolution that Started with a Fence”

Although the Torah is often looked upon by its detractors as an ancient, even primitive, code of law, parashat Kee Teitzei demonstrates clearly how the Torah was really light-years ahead of its time. The simple law of ma’akeh, the requirement to place a protective parapet or barrier around the roof, underscores the Torah’s central theme–that any hazard that may compromise public or private safety must be eliminated.

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Kee Teitzei 5764-2004

“The Torah’s ‘Secret’ for Longevity”

The Torah contains three Mitzvot whose reward is the lengthening of days. The first, found in the Ten Commandments, is honoring one’s father and mother. The second, found in parashat Kee Teitzei is known as shiluach hakahn, sending away the mother bird from the nest when taking the chicks or the eggs. The third, which is also found in Kee Teitzei, concerns honesty in business–that one may not possess smaller or larger weights, or smaller or larger measures. According to the Talmud, the first question that the heavenly tribunal asks the deceased is, “Did you conduct your business honestly?” Unfortunately, even in the religiously observant world, ethical behavior in business has not received the emphasis or attention that it merits.

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Kee Teitzei 5763-2003

“The Torah’s Radical Approach to Child Rearing”

In parashat Kee Teitzei, we learn of the law of the Ben Sorer U’moreh, the wayward and rebellious son. The Code of Jewish Law sets out very precise guidelines for child rearing that at first blush seem extremely harsh. However, after careful analysis, we see that the Torah is basically establishing boundaries between parent and child, leading to a healthy and loving parent-child relationship.

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Kee Teitzei 5762-2002

“Transforming an Enemy Into a Friend”

The Torah contains two quite remarkable laws concerning the treatment of animals. In parashat Kee Teitzei, we learn of the law of teh’eenah, that we must help a friend load an animal whose load is falling off. In parasahat Mishpatim, we learn the law of peh’reekah, of helping a friend unload an animal that is falling under its load. From the Talmudic discussion concerning one who is confronted with two animals, one that needs to be loaded and another that needs to be unloaded, we learn some remarkable laws about both animals and human beings.

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Kee Teitzei 5761-2001

“Polygamy and Jewish Tradition”

The Torah very clearly frowns on polygamist relationships. In every single instance in scripture where a man has more than one wife, the relationship is troubled. What then is the reason that the Torah permits a man to have more than one wife, even though it’s discouraged?

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Kee Teitzei 5760-2000

“Polygamy, Illegitimacy and Punishing the Innocent”

The concept of mamzerut, illegitimacy in Judaism, is a very painful topic in Jewish life but one that underscores the extreme sanctity with which Judaism views the family. Once the sanctity of life is compromised, Jewish life is compromised. The Torah has much to teach about conduct and compassion in the face of difficult societal issues and choices.

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