The Jews regard the first five books in the Bible as the Torah. They have a schedule that takes them through Torah passages every week. Recently, Bridges for Peace USA asked me to teach on Ki Seitzei, a study of Deuteronomy chapter 21, verse 10 to chapter 25, verse 19. Ki Seitzei is derived from the Hebrew root ‘to leave’. The context is simple. The people have recently been delivered from slavery in Egypt and now they prepare for their new life in the Promised Land.
The people have to shift from a slave temperament into a life based on free choice. Question: Do we sometimes live like victims instead of grasping the victory our faith provides?
The entire study starts with Deuteronomy chapter 21 verse 10 ‘when you go out to war against your enemies.’ It is easy to jump to thoughts of anti-Semitic enemies, nations who delight to attack the Israelis but in the first case this is not the emphasis. Instead the people are called to fight against the enemies of lust, greed, jealousy and pride, which they call the Evil Inclination. They had been subjected to slavery in Egypt and the warning is clear, if they give in to sin they will remain slaves.
The many laws Moses gave to the people were designed to prepare them for life in the Promised Land. To birth a prosperous, blessed community the foundations are to be kindness, generosity and preferring others.
Deuteronomy chapter 21 describes the capture of a ‘beautiful woman’ by a Hebrew soldier. It goes in to minute detail on what is expected of the captor. Her treatment is to be governed by kindness.
She is permitted to greave her family. She will shave her head and pare her nails. She is not to be sold or treated as a slave. The soldier has set rules, so that he has time to resist any lustful thoughts. In fact he is instructed to think of the woman’s well being. This is a stark contrast to the standards in the fallen world, significant if you think of their recent experiences in Egypt.
The morality of the law remains applicable whether you are a Jew or a Christian. From a Christian viewpoint in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth saying: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (1 Corinthians chapter 5, verses 1,2)
Paul who was a student of the great Gamaliel simply enforced the Torah standards of morality. (Gamaliel was a learned teacher and a Pharisee).
The instructions here are detailed with no less than 74 of the Torah’s 613 commandments explained. The people are given instructions on family life, property laws, the treatment of animals, the welfare of slaves, economic transactions and the burial of the deceased all addressed.
I can’t resist the joy of sharing Deuteronomy 22:12 “You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself.”
Westerners are often puzzled by Jewish apparel. Four tassles, known as tzit tzit hang from the corners of their garment. They contain the color blue. The blue thread intertwines the tassles and serve as a reminder the Torah is divinely woven throughout every life circumstance. The tzitzit is a reminder to please the Creator.
The tassles are mentioned again in Malachi chapter 4, verse 2. “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” Malachi describes ‘healing’ in the wings, in the tassles.
In the New Testament the Apostle Matthew describes a precious event. Matthew chapter 9 verse 20 to 22: “And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.”
Jesus, whose Hebrew name was Yeshua, wore the tzit tzit and healing flowed as was promised.
Ki Seitzei covers areas of rights –people respecting and honoring one another, animal rights are explained in detail. I read an Aish.com Torah portion and found an excellent illustration. “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them — work, family, health, friends and spirit — and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls — family, health, friends and spirit — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same.”
That vignette beautifully describes this Torah teaching.