This week’s parasha is Ki Teitzei, Deuteronomy 21.10 – 25.19[i] and, according to some reckoning, contains a listing of seventy-four of the six hundred and thirteen mitzvot given to Moshe at Mt. Sinai. These include the taking of captured women as wives (21.10-14) and the communal dealing with rebellious sons (21.18-21). Interestingly, the account dealing with the rebellious son explains the reasoning, So, you will purge the evil from your midst—and all Israel will hear and be afraid. (Deuteronomy 21.21) Notice that this is a communal action, not an individual action or that of the parents.
The phrase, “you will purge the evil from your midst,’ is emphasized in this week’s parasha, as it occurs four other times. Three of these occurrences address relations between a man and a woman. The first, concerns the virginity of a new wife (22.21), the second the act of adultery (22.22), and the third, the act of an engaged woman, a virgin, having sexual relations while in a city, the implication being that it was without her consent (22.24). The fourth appearance deals with the issue of someone kidnapping an individual from among Bnei Yisrael and treating them as a slave. The kidnapper is to die in order to purge the evil from your midst (24.7). This concept of communal action to guard the “sanctity” of the community is not limited to ancient Israel. Rav Shaul writes to the believers in Corinth
But now I am writing to you not to mix together with anyone who is being called a brother if he is sexually immoral or greedy or an idolater or a slanderer or a drunkard or a swindler—not even to eat with such a fellow. For what business do I have judging outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? But those who are outside, God judges. Put away the wicked fellow from among yourselves. (1 Corinthians 5.11-13)
It must be remembered that this action is not to be taken lightly. Last week, in Shoftim, we read that no accusations were to be received or acted upon without the presence of two or three witnesses. Equally, it should be noted that while we should be concerned about the actions of those in the world, as far as social awareness is concerned, Rav Shaul stipulates that we are to deal specifically with such injustices within our communities, allowing the LORD to deal with the situations outside the community.
This week’s haftarah is the fifth of seven readings of Consolation that follow Tisha b’Av and conclude the Shabbat prior to Rosh Hashanah. This week’s reading is from Isaiah 54.1-10. Possibly just before or during the beginning of the first exile, the author of Eichah (Lamentations) wrote
For the Lord will not reject forever. For though He has caused grief, yet He will have compassion according to His abundant mercies. (Eichah 3.31-32)
This week, Isaiah confirms the assurance of Hashem’s compassion for Bnei Yisrael when by the Ruach he wrote,
“For a brief moment I deserted you, but I will regather you with great compassion. In a surge of anger, I hid My face from you a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says Adonai your Redeemer. (Isaiah 54.7-8)
But then Hashem ties His promise to an older promise,
For this is like the waters of Noah to Me: for as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more cover the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, nor will I rebuke you. (Isaiah 54.9)
In the beginning of chapter 13, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews continues with this week’s idea of maintaining a separate, holy community, as he writes
Keep your lifestyle free from the love of money, and be content with what you have. For God Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you,” (Hebrews 13.5; cf. Deuteronomy 31.6)
As believers in Messiah Yeshua, we have the same assurance, that just as the world will never again be destroyed by flood waters, and that the LORD will never again turn His face from Israel completely, neither will He turn His face from us. This does not mean, however, that we, or Israel, are free to act any way that we desire. We are responsible to obey the LORD and the teachings of our Messiah. As Rosh Hashanah and the Days of Awe are merely weeks away, now would be a good time to begin taking inventory, physically, mentally and spiritually, of the past year – asking the LORD to make us aware of the areas where we may have fallen short of the mark and what we need to do to correct any infraction we may have allowed to enter into our lives.
Just one closing note, as many of you are aware, southeast Texas was recently hit pretty hard by the wind and rain of Hurricane Harvey. There are numerous agencies and individuals doing what they can to bring relief to that area of Texas, including Israeli disaster relief operations.[ii] If you are interested in providing specific assistance to the Messianic believers in the Houston area, the UMJC (Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations) has set up a way to contribute online at http://www.umjc.org/donate/. Under “special instructions” please write Hurricane. The funds will then be sent to Baruch Hashem Congregation, where the team will distribute them to specific congregations and teams that can meet the needs of the families who have been directly affected. The Psalmist wrote, “For He rescues the needy crying for help, also the poor and the one with no helper” (Psalm 72.12), and while the LORD is the ultimate provider, He often uses the work of our hands to meet those needs.
[i] Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.