This week in the parasha we seem to jump from law to law in a seemingly random way. It is almost as if the laws in this parasha have been randomly parcelled up here; a series of miscellaneous laws about inheritance, rebellious sons, overworked oxen, marriage violations and escaping slaves. So many choices to discuss, so little time!
What seems a shocking law this week is the treatment of the wayward son; his fate is to die by stoning. It reflects the cruelty of the laws of the surrounding nations. For example, if a son hit his father, the Hammurabi Code demanded the boy’s hands be “hewn off”. In reality the Rabbis interpreted the law is such a way that this was never done. Later in the parasha we read:
Parents shall not be put to death for children, nor children put to death for parents: a person shall be put to death only for his own crime.
Over the last few decades we have seen what we always considered to be stable institutions such as marriage being devalued. The responsibility to society is being replaced by personal desires and the understanding that decisions have consequences is eroded.
The body of Ki Teitzei is about respect between men and women, between neighbours and strangers and between man and the animal kingdom. We were going to enter the land with a civil code but also with a code derived from our relationship with God as we came out of Sinai.
From the beginning of the month of Ellul, we add psalm 27 to our prayers. Here we find the words:
כִּי-אָבִי וְאִמִּי עֲזָבוּנִי; וַיהוָה יַאַסְפֵנִי
For though my father and my mother have forsaken me, the LORD will take me up
There is always hope and belief.