In Parsha Ki Teitzei, Moses continues the list of social laws that we began reading last week. Here, he lists seventy-four mitzvot that relate to all aspects of human life, including debtors laws, the treatment of property and various family matters.
The Parsha opens with the laws of the beautiful female captive. It begins,
כי תצא למלחמה על איבך ונתנו ה אלקיך בידך וראית בשביה אשת יפת תאר וחשקת בה ולקחת לך לאשה
When you go out to war against your enemies, and the L-rd your G-d gives them into your hands...and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you have a desire for her, you may take her for yourself as wife. Then you shall bring her to your house and she shall shave her head and cut her nails. And she shall remove her captives garment and remain in your house and bewail her father and her mother a full month; after that you may be intimate with her and she will be your wife (21:11-13).
Following the law of the beautiful captive, we read the law of inheritance rights. This law states that it is forbidden to give precedence to the son of a favorite wife, as it is written,
לא יוכל לבכר את בן האהובה על פני בן השנואה הבכר
He may not prefer the son of the loved one over the son of the hated one the firstborn(21:16).
We also read of the wayward and rebellious son who does not obey his father and his mother and they chasten him, and he does not listen to them (21:18). As it is written,
ורגמהו כל אנשי עירו באבנים ומת ובערתה הרע מקרבך וכל ישראל ישמעו ויראו
And all the men of his city will stone him to death so you shall purge the evil from within you and all the children of Israel shall listen and fear(21:21).
חזל, Our rabbis teach us that the law of a the wayward son comes immediately after the law of the beautiful captive in order to teach us that if a man marries a beautiful captive, he will likely end up with a wayward and rebellious son.
The Parasha continues to discuss such varied mitzvot as the dignity of the dead, השבת אבדה -returning lost items, שילוח הקן -sending off the mother bird before taking her eggs, כלאים- forbidden hybrids, sexual crimes and restrictions, and divorce and marriage. For example, while it is forbidden to marry Ammonites and Moabites but Egyptians and Edomites who convert to Judaism are accepted after three generations.
The Parsha ends with a very important message that we customarily read on the shabbat before the holiday of Purim,
זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים (כה:יז
Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you were coming out of Egypt.(25:17)
תמחה את זכר עמלק מתחת השמים לא תשכח (כה:יט
You shall obliterate the memory of Amalek from beneath the sky; do not forget(25:19).
וראיתה בשביה אשת יפת תאר וחשקתה בה ולקחת לך לאשה (כא:יא
...and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you have a desire for her, you may take her for yourself as a wife(21:11).
The beautiful woman is a representative of the יצר הרע or evil inclination, which appears beautiful and seductive. The word תאר or
appearance can also be read as deriving from the Hebrew word to describe. Like the captive woman, the beauty of the evil inclination is an external one that can be described but we can defeat the יצר הרע (evil inclination) by looking at our inner beauty, our connection to G-d.
The קבלה (Kabbalah) explains this principle:
וחשקתה בה ולקחת
and you have a desire for her, you make take her for yourself
By examining the instructions that are given in the rest of the verse. Just as in the instance of a man who desires the captive woman, if a person desires to be connected to G-d and the שכינה (Shechinah), the G-dly presence, he/she has to take several steps first. For example, just as the verse instructs,
והבאתה אל תוך ביתך
you will bring her into your house,
a person has to bring the שכינה (Shechinah) into his house by orienting his thoughts and feelings to be לשם שמים or for the sake of heaven, and then:
וגלחה את ראשה ועשתה את צפרניה
And she will shave her head and cut her nails (21:12).
The hair and the nails are external things in our body. The Torah wants us to dwell on our inner נשמה (soul) and not to dwell on the superficial. Another explanation is that our hair and our nails are representative of the material items that captivate our attention and our time but we must try to focus on the internal to see the beauty of the שכינה Shechinah, the G-dly presence.
(לא תזרע כרמך כלאים (כב:ט
Do not plant in your vineyard a mixed variety of species (22:9).
The הרב חידא (The Chida) says that a person should not mix מצוות or mitzvot (commandments) and עבירות (sins) together. For example, a person should not speak לשון הרע (slanderous speech) after he/she gives צדקה (charity), or study Torah but not honor his/her parents.
כלאים mixed variety of species contains the Hebrew word כלא, a prison. From this we can learn that we should not let our נשמה become imprisoned in and mixed with the daily preoccupations of the physical body. Instead, we should remember that our bodies are only vessels for the pure soul within.