Ki-Teitzei

Ki-Teitzei

When you go out

Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Isaiah 54:1-10 (or finish at 52:13)

“Love Thy Neighbor”


by Mark Huey

Ki-Teitzei is traditionally considered during the month of Elul, as one is preparing his or her heart for the Fall high holidays. It is during this forty-day season of repentance or teshuvah, which lasts from 01 Elul through the Ten Days of Awe (01-09 Tishri) preceding Yom Kippur (10 Tishri), that many of our Jewish brethren turn, or in some cases return, to the God of Israel, and review their personal relationship with Him. For a Messianic community which studies the Torah portions on a weekly basis, this is a good example to follow. In some respects, this forty-day period is almost like an annual inspection of one’s soul to determine where a person stands in his or her relationship not only with the Almighty, but with one’s fellow human beings.

The Book of Deuteronomy is an important review of the Torah—and a great tool for instruction—as hearts are being prepared for not only the Day of Atonement, but also the season of joy that envelops the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. While Believers in Yeshua do not necessarily approach the Fall high holidays in the same way as non-believing Jews, the fact remains that meditating upon God’s Word is of great personal benefit. The Psalms are replete with statements to this regard:

  • “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
  • “I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways” (Psalm 119:15).
  • “And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, which I love; and I will meditate on Your statutes” (Psalm 119:48).

Last week in Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9), the text dealt with the theme of justice in national civil matters, as instruction for judges, kings, priests, and prophets was described. This week, Ki-Teitzei deals primarily with matters that pertain to individuals, their families, and their neighbors on a more personal level.

As you read through these chapters of Deuteronomy in Ki-Teitzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19), you are confronted with a wide array of instructions, including but not limited to: family laws,[1] laws of kindness,[2] laws about the holiness of the camp,[3] how to handle fugitive slaves,[4] laws prohibiting prostitution,[5] interest on money lent,[6] vows,[7] gleaning in neighbors’ fields,[8] divorce,[9] pledges,[10] treatment of workers,[11] individual responsibility,[12] avoiding injustice to the stranger,[13] instructions relating to orphans and widows,[14] judgments short of capital punishment,[15] kindness to animals,[16] the laws of levirate marriage (for a deceased brother),[17] flagrant immodesty,[18] honest weights and measures,[19] and finally remembering Amalek.[20]

This is a wide breadth of topics to consider. I would encourage you to take the time to read and consider these passages, because these commandments have helped to inform and guide many of the civil codes and social structures founded in the Judeo-Christian world. While there is a diversity of instructions witnessed in Ki-Teitzei, the overall theme we witness focuses on how one should handle affairs between people from all walks of life, namely, one’s family and neighbors. Where the emphasis appears on how to love God, these commandments give us a clearer understanding about how we are to love our neighbors.

Consider the question of the lawyer or Torah teacher to Yeshua, asking for His opinion about the greatest commandment:

“One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND’ [Deuteronomy 6:5]. This is the great and foremost commandment. ‘The second is like it, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” [Leviticus 19:18].’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:35-40).

Here, the greatest commandments tell us that we are to love God unconditionally, and then we are to love our neighbors unconditionally. Yeshua responds to the lawyer by first quoting from the Shema:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Yeshua then amplifies His answer by stating that the second commandment is the application of the first. As one begins to love the Lord with all his heart, soul, and might, it will manifest itself tangibly by evidence of loving one’s neighbor. If you turn to where loving one’s neighbor is first detailed in Leviticus 19:9-20, you will notice that many of the actions that are described in this passage are also a part of this week’s Torah portion. Just listen to how some of this week’s themes come forth in Leviticus 19:9-20:

“Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God. You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together. Now if a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave acquired for another man, but who has in no way been redeemed nor given her freedom, there shall be punishment; they shall not, however, be put to death, because she was not free” (Leviticus 19:9-20).

Do you hear some of these same themes further articulated in Ki-Teitzei? Proper gleaning of crops, payment of wages, how to sow crops, and dealings with virgins and others, are just a few of the topics considered in this passage from Leviticus. Ultimately, the overwhelming theme of Leviticus ch. 19 is the concept of loving your neighbor as yourself. By demonstrating fairness and love when dealing with your neighbor—or even your enemy—on a wide variety of personal issues, you demonstrate obedience to this commandment. Consider how this week’s Torah reading lists some commandments with how to help one’s neighbor with a lost animal:

“You shall not see your countryman’s ox or his sheep straying away, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly bring them back to your countryman. If your countryman is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall remain with you until your countryman looks for it; then you shall restore it to him. Thus you shall do with his donkey, and you shall do the same with his garment, and you shall do likewise with anything lost by your countryman, which he has lost and you have found. You are not allowed to neglect them. You shall not see your countryman’s donkey or his ox fallen down on the way, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly help him to raise them up” (Deuteronomy 22:1-4).

Putting others’ needs before your own is definitely an indication that one loves his or her neighbor.

Another example comes from the concept of equal weights and measures. The essence of honesty is expressed as God extends a reward for equality, but regards inequality as an abomination:

“You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a full and just weight; you shall have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. For everyone who does these things, everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

Consider this: Do you truly love your neighbor if you have unequal weights and measures? Yeshua’s saying, commonly called “the Golden Rule,” essentially summarizes the command to love one’s neighbor. The concept of doing to others as you would have them do to you is a major theme of Yeshua’s teaching in His Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 7:1-12).

Here in this passage, Yeshua brings great understanding to His listeners about some of the critical components of loving one’s neighbor. The parallel account in Luke’s Gospel offers us some different dimensions of what it means to love one’s neighbor that must be considered:

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:27-36).

Earlier, I discussed how meditating upon the Torah is beneficial to the soul. But what about meditating upon the words of Yeshua—the Word of God made flesh? After all, many times throughout Gospels, Yeshua helps clarify what is meant by what Moses originally directed in the Torah. The question asked of the Lord in Matthew 22:35-40 cited earlier, where Yeshua made His declarations about the greatest commandments, was preceded by another question about one of the passages from this week’s Torah portion. Here, the Sadducees question Yeshua about remarriage in light of Deuteronomy 25:5:

“When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. But if the man does not desire to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, ‘I do not desire to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, ‘Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ In Israel his name shall be called, ‘The house of him whose sandal is removed’” (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

This is how Yeshua deals with them asking about this:

“On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Yeshua and questioned Him, asking, ‘Teacher, Moses said, “IF A MAN DIES HAVING NO CHILDREN, HIS BROTHER AS NEXT OF KIN SHALL MARRY HIS WIFE, AND RAISE UP CHILDREN FOR HIS BROTHER” [Deuteronomy 25:5]. Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.’ But Yeshua answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: “I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB” [Exodus 3:6, 15, 16]? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.’ When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. But when the Pharisees heard that Yeshua had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘“YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND” [Deuteronomy 6:5]. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” [Leviticus 19:18]. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 22:23-40).

The Sadducees, who denied anything supernatural such as the resurrection (Acts 23:8), asked the Lord about a hypothetical case where a widow ends up marrying seven brothers. They were actually trying to trick Yeshua into saying something that would discredit Him. The Sadducees’ shock comes when Yeshua admonishes His questioners with the succinct statement that “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” This profound statement was meant to shock the Sadducees into reconsidering their perverse thinking, as the Patriarchs were still to be considered as “living,” presumably in some kind of disembodied temporary state until the resurrection.

Yeshua taught that what matters the most is evidenced in our heart attitude toward God and toward one another. It is critical that such love is evidenced by us. If one is unable to demonstrate love toward a human being who can be seen—then how can we truly love a God whom we cannot see? This is why I would like to close with some thoughts on love from the Apostle Paul. Here in 1 Corinthians 13, sometimes regarded to be the famous “love chapter,” Paul describes the essence of agapē love. Each of us needs to consider whether our love for our neighbor is evidenced by this type of love:

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

If we cannot say that we love our neighbor by these standards, is it possible that we cannot love others as we would have them love us? This is something for each of us to think about as we evaluate our relationship with God in this season of repentance. I pray that we would be continually conformed to the loving image of His Son, who not only loved His neighbors—but died for everyone so we all could live!


NOTES

[1] Deuteronomy 22:13-23:1-6.

[2] Deuteronomy 23:7-9.

[3] Deuteronomy 23:10-14.

[4] Deuteronomy 23:15-16.

[5] Deuteronomy 23:17-18.

[6] Deuteronomy 23:19-20.

[7] Deuteronomy 23:21-23.

[8] Deuteronomy 23:24-25.

[9] Deuteronomy 24:1-5.

[10] Deuteronomy 24:6-13.

[11] Deuteronomy 24:14-15.

[12] Deuteronomy 24:16.

[13] Deuteronomy 24:17-18.

[14] Deuteronomy 24:20-21.

[15] Deuteronomy 25:1-3.

[16] Deuteronomy 25:4.

[17] Deuteronomy 25:5-10.

Consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Levirate Marriage.”

[18] Deuteronomy 25:11-12.

[19] Deuteronomy 25:13-16.

[20] Deuteronomy 25:17-19.