Parshat Ki Teitsei 5780: Unthinkable Conduct, Now the New Normal?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Ki Teitzei is being co-sponsored by Rabbi Tully and Hindy Bryks of Ramat Beit Shemesh and dedicated L’ilui Nishmas for Hindy’s Dad, Moshe Zev Ben Yosef (Marty Ginsberg) z”l. This author also dedicates this Parshat HaShevua Ki Teitzei in honor of all in the Ramat Beit Shemesh “Alef” community who have helped him and all other senior citizens during this Chinese corona virus pandemic. To the Bryks family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Ki Teitsei 5780: Unthinkable Conduct, Now the New Normal?

by Moshe Burt

Parsha Ki Teitsei teaches numerous Mitzvot such as; returning lost items to their rightful owners, loaning money to one’s fellow Jew free from interest, what one is permitted to or prohibited from taking from another Jew as loan security, the laws of Shatnes (wool and linen together), Tzitzit, and dealing fairly and truthfully with one’s fellow Jews in business. We also learn of Mitzvot such as sending a mother bird away before taking the young or the eggs and helping one’s fellow Jew load and unload a burden, fencing in a roof area and not harnessing together different species of animals on the same yoke.

In light of current events in Israel, the United States and around the world, this author deems it appropriate to rehash points covered in last year’s vort.

Rabbi Henach Leibowitz, in his sefer “Majesty of Man”, comments on the state of our society today, something we may all know, but maybe don’t yet sufficiently internalize:

…Conduct once considered unthinkable is now commonplace. Acts of immorality, vulgarity… which Torah defines as abominations and only a generation ago were considered unimaginable, are now paraded openly without shame.

Do we realize the effect our environment has on us? Our neshamas are holy and pure, created in Hashem’s image and instilled with the sensitivity of the Torah’s moral standards.

Our parsha contains a posuk (Sefer Devarim, Perek 22, posuk 5) discussing one category of what Rabbi Leibowitz characterizes as “conduct once considered unthinkable” regarding male and female garb and the prohibition against cross-dressing, considered by Hashem as “an abomination.” This prohibition relates closely to Parshat Acharei Mos in Sefer Vayikra. There, Torah teaches (Sefer Vayikra, chapter 18, posukim 22-23):

“You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, it is an abomination. Do not lie with any animal to be contaminated with it; a woman shall not stand before an animal for mating, it is a perversion.”

Rashi comments on the word “abomination” in the Artscroll Stone Chumash, Sefer Vayikra, chapter 18, posuk 22 (page 653):

An abomination. None of the relationships given above [in Sefer Vayikra, chapter 18, posukim 6-20] are described with this term of disgust, because they involve normal activity, though with prohibited mates. Homosexuality [and bestiality], however is unnatural and therefore abominable.

But this unthinkable conduct seems not restricted to the abominations of, and relating to, same-genderism. In this year, as America and Israel fight against the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic, politically instigated loshon hora seems to abound, both in Israel and in Chutz L’Aretz. Law and order and justice seem to have totally broken down before identity politics, charges of racism, local authority condoned destruction of national historical monuments, federal government buildings and facilities. America’s incumbent President is verbally trashed, disrespected and undermined by alt-left radical opponents and anti-semitic components bent on overthrow by virtue of impeachment or by his losing a 2020 election. Our Prime Minister is also potentially in harm’s way.

We remember the Amalek without, throughout the generations and in whatever guise and abomination against us that he manifests himself — even in our days, but it also seems to this author a necessity that we remember; “lo nishkach v’lo Nislach” — we won’t forgive and we can’t and won’t forget the lack of justice, principle and morality of successive Israel’s governances, seemingly best summed up as “being merciful to the cruel, and cruel to the merciful” as exemplified by the various evictions and other identity-related attacks of recent years; i.e., the expulsion of Jewish Brethren from Gush Katif, the thrice expelled families of Amona, the events in Chevron — in Shalhevet neighborhood, Beit Shapira, Beit HaShalom, Federman’s farm, the Ulpana in Beit El and much more, to this very day.

We also can’t forget Jonathan Pollard, now 66 years old, who has suffered over 33 years in US prison, including years of solitary confinement and who remains, after being released from prison, under house arrest for what seems to be an indefinite period of time and banned from leaving the United States for Israel.. The extraordinary length of his incarceration is due in large part to a benignly neglectful and disdainful Israeli governance who slammed the Embassy doors on their agent when he sought asylum and then were content for decades to seeing him languish in prison. Only in recent years, did Israel’s prime minister, president and governance begin making sounds on Pollard’s behalf due to intense pressure — or perhaps not to be embarrassed by being outdone by the numbers of influential Americans calling for the President’s commutation of Pollard’s term to time served.

Only at such time as repeated verbal contrition, and frank admissions of the errors, misjudgements, appeasements and prejudices against other Jews regarding these.past events are manifested — Yehuda-esque (related to confronting the Viceroy regarding his brother Benyamin), followed by actions backing up the verbal contrition, is forgiveness and a beginning to building of unity possible.

In short, our Parsha emphasizes that the unity with which B’nei Yisrael L’Chatchila is to go out to war against her enemies evolves from collective responsibility, kindness, caring and fairness for and with each other fellow Jew. These attributes of being fair, straight with, and caring for another person are kinder than the insensitivity, indifference and disunity of making up any and every excuse or non-reason under the sun for an action or kindness not done. Collective unity — responsibility, kindness, caring and fairness for and with each other negates the possibility of a kindness not shown; whether the action relates to Shidduchim, to employment searching and interviews, to giving Tzeddakah, respecting the kavanah (intent) of others when saying Aleinu, etc. or merely making the effort to hold a bus driver for another few seconds while his fellow huffs and puffs under the weight of grocery bags as he runs to catch the bus. This relates to each Jew and how he relates toward his fellow Jew, both on a personal level and collectively.

At this point, this author gives a huge Hakarat Tov to the wonderful Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef community for their collective immense helping, caring and sensitivity toward their fellows during this horrendous summer of the corona virus pandemic.

Our lives and our hopes for a good year and good things to come hang in the balance of the Cheshbon, if you will, between our Mitzvot (good deeds) and our Aveirot (sins or violations of Divine law). Once again, as 5781 approaches, it’s “Clutch time” and as that famous coach says, “Our Mitzvot aren’t everything, they’re the Only Thing.”

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free, as Naama Issachar is now free and home — which can only occur when Jonathan is home in Israel and carrying for his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five and a half years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.