Parashat Ki-Tetzei!

Dear Friends;

I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parasha summary
followed by a Dvar Torah;

” Parsha in a Nutshell ”

Seventy-four of the Torah’s 613 commandments are
mentioned in this week’s Parsha. They include the following: If a soldier
desires a beautiful captive woman in a battle, the only way to get intimate with
her is by marrying her. If a man marries two wives, and the less-favored wife
bears a firstborn son, this son has the right to inherit a double portion. The
penalty for a rebellious son, who will inevitably degenerate into a monstrous
criminal, is stoning. A body must not be left on the gallows overnight. Lost
property must be return. Men are forbidden from wearing women’s clothing and
vice versa. A mother bird may not be taken together with her eggs. A fence must
be built around the roof of a house.

It is forbidden to plant a mixture of seeds, to plow with an ox and a donkey together or to combine wool and linen in a garment. A four-cornered garment must have twisted threads (tzitzit) on its corners. Laws regarding forbidden relationships are detailed. An escaped slave must not be returned to his master.

Taking interest for lending to a Jew
is forbidden. Benei Yisrael are not to make vows. A worker may eat of the fruit
he is harvesting. Laws for divorce and marriage are mentioned. For the first
year of marriage, a husband is exempt from the army and stays home to make
rejoice with his wife. The penalty for kidnapping for profit is death. Even for
an overdue loan, the creditor must return the collateral daily if the debtor
needs it. Workers’ pay must not be delayed. The guilty may not be subjugated by
punishing an innocent relative. Because of their vulnerability, converts and
orphans have special rights of protection. The poor are to have a portion of the
harvest. An ox must not be muzzled while threshing. It is a mitzvah for a man to
marry his brother’s widow if the deceased left no offspring. Weights and
measures must be accurate and used honestly.

The parsha concludes with the mitzvah to erase the name of Amalek, for in spite of knowing about the Exodus, they ambushed the Jewish People.

” Dvar Torah ”

Although I have sent this Dvar Torah before, but I feel
that the message is so important that we need to be constantly reminded of it.
So I hope that you’ll enjoy reading it once again.

This week’s Parsha is
packed with mitzvot, seventy four to be exact. It covers many different areas,
from the sexual desires of a soldier on the battlefield, all the way to have
compassion for the mother bird by not taking her eggs in front of her eyes. But
I would like to talk about a more sensitive subject; the laws of “divorce”. In
this week’s Parsha, the Torah briefly mentions: ” If a man marries a woman, and
it will be if she does not find favor in his eyes for he found in her an “ervat
davar” (unseemly conduct), then he may divorce her!”

In Talmud, there is a whole section which discusses the laws of divorce known as “Tractate Gittin”. For those of you who are not so familiar with Talmud, like myself, it consists of two parts; Mishnah and Gemara. Mishnayot are the collection of Torah’s oral
laws, compiled by numerous scholars, while the Gemara are the commentaries on
the Mishnah given by subsequent scholars. The way the Talmud is written is quite
unique. Different Rabbis give their opinions regarding a Jewish law and they
even argue and disagree with each other. There is no right or wrong answer! It
just opens your mind to different ways of viewing the same law.

Accordingly, in Talmud there is a Mishnah which discusses “ervat
davar” (unseemly conduct) and what should be a justified reason for a man to
divorce his wife. The following Rabbis, or school of thoughts, give their
opinions:  Beith Shammai, who is known for a strict opinion in most matters says
that divorce should only occur over a matter of immorality. Beith Hillel says,
that divorce is permitted “even if she burns his soup.” And Rabbi Akiva, whose
devotion and gratitude to his wife is legendary, says that “even if he finds a
nicer woman, (he may divorce her).”!!!!!!

WOW!!! What is this Mishnah saying?! I’m sorry, but to me, this Mishnah is unacceptable!! We are talking about the greatest sages of all times!! How can they say a “burnt soup” can be a reason for a divorce??? How can they even mention, “if a man finds a nicer
looking woman”, he can divorce his wife and go after the nicer one???? To me,
this Mishnah sounds too absurd and irrational!! In Orthodox communities, the
rate of divorce is the lowest compared to any other communities!!! Very rarely
you see a Rabbi divorcing his wife. Confused with the whole scenario, I thought
maybe studying this Mishnah is too difficult for me and I should let it go, but
on the contrary, it made me more curious than ever to find an answer.

As I was searching for answers, suddenly, I found the following story said by Rabbi
Binyamin Kamenetzky which goes as follows:

Rabbi Dovid was happily married to his dear and loving wife for nearly half a century. Her sudden death cast him into a terrible depression for which there was almost no cure. His son and daughter-in-law, Roizy, graciously invited him to stay at their home and
share everything with them. Rabbi Dovid’s daughter-in-law, cooked every meal for
him but Rabbi Dovid was never pleased. No matter how deliciously the meals were,
he would sigh and mutter to himself, loud enough for his son to hear, “this was
not the way your Mom made the soup.”

Roizy poured through her mother-in-law’s old recipe books and tried to re-create the delicious taste for which her father-in-law longed. But Rabbi Dovid was still not pleased.

One day, while the soup was on the fire, Rabbi Dovid’s grandchild fell
outside. In her haste to get to the child, Roizy almost dropped in the entire
pepper shaker in the soup. In addition, by the time the child was washed and
bandaged, the soup was totally burned!

There was nothing for Rabbi Dovid’s daughter-in-law to do but serve the severely spiced, burnt soup.

She stood in agony as her elderly father in-law brought the soup to his
lips. This time he would probably more than mumble a complaint. But it was not
to be. A wide smile broke across Rabbi Dovid’s face. “Delicious my dear
daughter,” said the Rabbi with tears in his eye. “Absolutely delicious! This is
exactly how my wife used to make the soup!!!!!!!!!!”

The Chachamim explain the Gemara as follows: The Gemara is giving us a sign, when a marriage needs to be repaired. If a man tastes the burnt soup that his loving wife cooked
for him and he is repulsed, then he is missing the love for his wife that the
Torah requires from him. Rabbi Akiva, who did not even look at any other women
and stayed faithful to his wife for his entire life, declared that if a man
finds a woman whom he thinks is better looking than his wife, then there is
something wrong in his marriage and needs evaluation and repair! BECAUSE EVERY
MAN MUST ALWAYS BELIEVE THAT THERE IS NOTHING TASTIER THAN HIS WIFE’S COOKING, AND THAT THERE IS NO ONE MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN THE WOMAN HE HAS MARRIED!!! To the man, his entire thoughts should be focused on his wife and children only; everything else is secondary!!! The Gemara is giving us a sarcastic example of
the “Burnt soup”, to show us that even a small argument can turn into a big
fight, and G-d forbid, can end up in a divorce if we don’t handle it in a
rational way. It is up to us to choose to love our wife and make her the most
desirable woman in our life and live a happy life, or G-d forbid, we can
constantly look around and compare her with other women and other cooks and find
faults in her and live a miserable life. The choice is ours!!! The Gemara is not
teaching us when is the right time to get a divorce, but rather, it is telling
us the secret of how to stay together!!

So my friends, the secret to a successful marriage is not to marry the most beautiful woman, but if you find your wife to be the most beautiful woman in YOUR eyes, then you’ve found the key to a happy and everlasting marriage!

Shabbat Shalom &