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If Worse Comes to Worst...

09/08/2022 03:28:24 PM


Our Torah portion this week “Ki Tetzei” begins “When you’ll go out to war against your enemies…” (Deut. 21:10). The opening incident concerns a prison of war, a beautiful woman, who the victor wants to take as a wife. Obviously, in modern times this would be considered a war crime and not reflective of Jewish ethics. In the Biblical milieu war was a fact of life, and injury was common. Only last week we read the ‘improvement’ on standard practice of the time concerning personal injury: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth…” 

Torah deals with not only lofty ideals but also with the nitty gritty. No one wants to go to war, however if there no choice but to engage in armed conflict the Jewish tradition sets very clear boundaries. We are not entitled to abuse prisoners and loot indiscriminately.  In the first five verses we hear the steps the victor must take before he can marry the former enemy. The last verse in this section is the most telling: “And it will be, if you don’t desire her then you shall let her go on her own, and you shall not sell her for money. You shall not get profit through her, because you degraded her.” (Deut. 21:14) The law is clear: he is allowed to take her as a wife, but it is a compromise as it causes her trauma. As Reform Jews we do not adhere to a strict observance of Halacha, Orthodox Jewish Law, but we learn from the rich tradition which nourishes it.

As we move through the month of Elul we are reminded that things change – the days shorten, the temperature drops, soon the leaves will begin to turn. The natural world’s cycle of decay and renewal gives us hope that we too change. We look back at the past year and struggle to remember what last September felt like. I suggest we look back and learn from the struggle to retain the best of what Temple Beth David is. So much positive energy has been poured into your efforts this past year and I can see the results! Despite the title of this article, we really are building momentum and moving into the New Year with focus and determination. May we count our blessings this Elul and enter into the New Year with renewed vigor and commitment to strengthen our Jewish community together.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Leah Benamy

Mon, December 5 2022 11 Kislev 5783