In this week’s Parashah of Ki Teitzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19) Moses continues to elaborate on God’s commands regarding the family and how healthy familial relationships not only affect the individual, but society as a whole. Within Ki Teitzei, emphasis is placed on private matters concerning both the individual and one’s household, while in other previous Parashiot, emphasis is surrounding more tribal concerns and in addressing public officials and matter relating to the Children of Israel as a whole.
From this perspective, we are reminded that the redemptive work of the Torah and God’s instruction in our lives is all inclusive and is designed to transform every aspect of our human existence. For us in Messianic Judaism, this is highly significant when we consider that the Good News of the Kingdom of God, should affect and transform every area our lives. Insightfully, the commands of God in the Torah were never given to Israel for constraint, but instead as an act of Liberation and Freedom whereby the individual and the people as a whole could be restored and enabled to serve God in every area of their lives and to be a viable witness to the nations.
Part of this calling however is seen in the opening words of our Parashahand specifically, God’s concern for women in society and most importantly, our treatment of them. Despite misguided outcry of feminist extremism and the voice of hate from the radical-left, the truth still remains that from the beginning of modern civilization and before, humankind has been plagued with a spirit of misogyny (the hate and abuse of women). Today, when the events of spousal abuse and human trafficking assault our consciousness and headlines, it is still the Torah that calls us back, and reminding how all of us should be treating one another.
Noteworthy, in this week’s Parashah, Moses begins in stating,
“When you go out to war against your enemies, and Adonai your God hands them over to you, and you take prisoners, and you see among the prisoners a woman who looks good to you and you feel attracted to her and want her as your wife; you are to bring her home to your house, where she will shave her head, cut her fingernails and remove her prison clothing. She will stay there in your house, mourning her father and mother for a full month; after which you may go in to have sexual relations with her and be her husband, and she will be your wife. In the event that you lose interest in her, you are to let her go wherever she wishes; but you may not sell her for money or treat her like a slave, because you humiliated her.” (Deuteronomy 21:10-14)
From our modern culture we can easily question and even judge what appears here to be a forcible act of making this woman of captivity to marry an unknown man (vs. 10-13). Equally, most would feel uncomfortable with the idea that once the husband has lost interest in his foreign wife, that would conclude by casting her off. (v. 14)
Yet through all of this, we must choose to see in these passages the heart of God in the simple phrase,
“…you are to let her go wherever she wishes, but you may not sell her for money or treat her like a slave, because you humiliated her.” (v. 14)
Here, we find that the woman of Deuteronomy 21 is not just as a “thing” to be bartered or sold, but instead an individual deserving of dignity and respect because she is made in the image of God.
To reinforce this reality, A midrash by Rabbi Joshua ben Levi in Deuteronomy Rabbah 4:4while elucidating on Genesis 1:16-17 states,
“A procession of angels passes before each person, and the heralds go before them, saying, ‘Make way for the image of God’.”
Here, we are reminded that all of humankind (both women and men alike) are all precious, holding infinite value and uniquely made in the image of God! Thus, in Judaism, when we harm our neighbor - we are in fact attacking the very image of God itself.
While looking at these events historically, Rabbi Jeffrey H. Tiguy in his commentary on Deuteronomy strengthens our midrash by noting Parashah Ki Teitzei that,
“Most women captives in the ancient world became slaves, but in some cases a soldier found one whom he desired to take as a wife or concubine … This law [from the Torah thus] requires a soldier who wishes to marry a captive woman to show consideration for her feelings … [The most] significant aspect of this law is its respect for the personhood of the captive woman.”
Such compliments last week’s Parashah (Shoftim) in its opening exhortation “Justice, only Justice, you must Pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). From the context of Ki Teitzei, we are reminded that if justice is truly justice, then it must first reach in grace and loving kindness to the weakest and most vulnerable around us.
From this, what lessons can we learn as a Messianic Jewish community and of our calling to be used of God in bringing about the Restoration of Israel and the Body of Messiah? Also, as we declare the Good News to the lost and wayward, how does Ki Teitzei and the woman of Deuteronomy 21 instruct us in fulfilling God’s will in our lives and for Messianic calling? …
It is demonstrated that our greatest calling is seen in our willingness to favor those amongst us who are in need, hurting and less fortunate. It is by following the admonition and command of the B’rit Chadashah in being like Yeshua who came as a servant to all (Mark 9:35; Matthew 23:11-12) and in our call to care for the widow and orphan and those who are in distress (James 1:27).
In the end, we cannot simply speak of our faith in Messiah, … we must FIRST live it out sacrificially for all who are in need by the guidance, direction and discernment of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). In knowing that our calling is to be as wise and serpents and gentle as doves (Matthew 10:16), our feet and hearts should be tuned by the Spirit of God to be swift and deliberate in caring for those in the moment who need the comfort, healing and restoration that only Yeshua can give.
Beloved let us all lay down our lives or one another!
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