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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Ki Tetze

Going Out & Going in

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The title of our Sedra, "Ki Tetze" literally means, "when you will go out." Now, technically, this phrase is part of the commandment regarding going out to war, but I want to suggest that is much more comprehensive than that; that it applies to numerous Mitzvot in the parsha, not just military activity. And that it means, in the larger sense, "when you go out – of your comfort zone."

For example, the Mitzva of returning a lost article. The Torah says, "You shall not see the wandering oxen of your fellow Jew, v’hit’a’lamta mey’hem," & hide from them. Yes, it’s a hassle to concern yourself with someone else’s property – why should you have to deal with it; the owner should have been more careful watching it! But Hashem says, "go out" – help him, even if it puts you out for a bit.

Then there is the slave who escapes from a (harsh) master & runs to you when you liberate a city. You neither need nor want a slave; you already have all the mouths to feed that you can handle. You’d much rather send him back to where he came from & attend to your own affairs. "No," says Hashem; "go out" of that comfort zone & give him refuge & asylum.

Our Sedra also talks about the prohibition of charging a fellow Jew interest on a loan. Yes, he might be more than happy to pay the interest; & why should you lose that interest when you could make money elsewhere from it? But, says G-d, "he’s your brother," so go the extra mile, go out of that comfort zone & waive the interest, because that is what we do for family.

You see your workers in the field eating your grapes; your inclination is to tell them to stop – these are my grapes, not his! You lend someone money, & they give you their coat as a security deposit, & then they want it back when the weather gets cold. But hold on a second - they haven’t yet repaid the loan! Your instinct says, "be strict, be tough, I have the right!" But Hashem says, "True, you do have the right; but I want you to "go out" – give them the grapes to eat & the coat to wear."

Finally, our Sedra ends with the command to wipe out Amalek, our arch-enemies & the epitome of evil in this world. Destroy them, eradicate them – no mercy, no exceptions. But you waver; you’re not "hard-wired " for violence, you believe in the goodness of Man. And, after all, these are people, too; "it’s just not in my nature to be brutal, I’m a man of mercy," you protest. But Hashem says, "I realize that. But these terrorists are the scourge of Mankind; your 'mercy,' in actuality, is cruelty, for they will kill others mercilessly unless you kill them first. Go out of your comfort zone, show them no kindness or reprieve. It is hard, but it is necessary."

"Go out," says Hashem, and I will "go in" to your Neshamot & make them pure.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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