Friday, August 31, 2012

Think Before You Act

By Michael Hirsch

With some 74 commandments (out of 613 in the entire Torah), this week's portion is a true "Mitzvah Fest." In addition to which, as we see at the very beginning of the Parasha, we have to look below the surface, at the order in which these Mitzvot are presented, to discover very powerful messages. The first message: THINK BEFORE YOU ACT! Or alternatively, very few unforeseen circumstances are truly unforeseen.
The first commandment in Ki Tzeitzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-14) concerns an Israelite male, a soldier, who is enamored by a female captive and wishes to marry her. The Torah delineates all the steps he must follow (all intended as roadblocks, all intended to get him to think with his head, instead of his libido) in order to accomplish this.
Next (21:15-17), we are told that if a man has two wives, one who he loves dearly, one who he abhors, and the latter wife provides him with his first-born ("bechor") son. He may not grant the rights of primogeniture to a son borne by the wife he loves.
Third (21:18-21), the Torah gives us the rules for how to deal with a rebellious son. He mocks his parents, he scorns their way of life, he flaunts his disregard for all their warnings and counsel. We are told to bring him before the Elders of the city, who after hearing all the testimony, and only under extreme circumstances, can sentence this rebel to death by stoning. (The Talmud tells us that court which would hand down such a sentence once in seventy years would be considered extremely harsh in its rulings).
Rashi provides us with the sub-surface message, linking these three seemingly unlinked Mitzvot. To wit—because that soldier did not think before he acted, instead falling prey to his sexual urges, eventually he will come to hate this woman. Thereafter, her son, sensing all the negative feelings between his father and mother (and, in all probability, discovering what unseemly circumstances brought them together in the first place) will rebel, throwing off all parental discipline.
IF you do, you will encounter few truly unforeseen circumstances. 
Shabbat Shalom.

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