Telephone Torah Study: Torah Portion with the Most Mitzvot


This week’s Torah portion, Ki Teitzei (Deut. 21:10-25:19), contains more mitzvot (commandments) of any portion, 74 of the traditional 613. This Thursday at 4-5pm will discuss Ki Teitzei in our Telephone Torah Study. To join in on the conference call, please dial 702-851-4044, when prompted punch in 2, then our pass code 22252#.

In ‘Every Act is Significant’ Rabbi Irving Greenberg says, “the reward of long life for the seemingly simple commandment of shooing away a mother bird before taking her young teaches us that no act is trivial.”

Of all these commandments, one stands out. “If [walking] along the road, you chance upon a bird’s nest . . . and the mother is sitting over the fledglings or on the eggs, do not take the mother together with her young. Let the mother go and take only the young, in order that you may fare well and have a long life” (Deuteronomy 22:6).

The Talmud labels this mitzvah the “lightest” (the most insubstantial) of all the commandments, probably because it takes little effort to perform. Sending away the mother might well involve merely making a loud noise. Indeed, just walking close (or advancing menacingly) might induce the mother to fly away.

Commentators in every generation have wondered why there is so extravagant a reward (a good, long life) for so “trivial” an act! Indeed, one Talmudic commentator points out that the same reward is specified in the Torah for honoring parents. Yet fulfilling that commandment takes a lifetime and often involves money, emotion and effort without limit. He concludes that the equality of reward is the point. The “lightest” of commandments rewarded as much as the “weightiest” to teach us to treasure and observe all commandments equally–for the reward of any mitzvah is incalculable.

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Torah Passage of the Week

If, along the road, you chance upon a bird’s nest, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs and the mother sitting over the fledglings or on the eggs, do not take the mother together with her young. Let the mother go, and take only the young, in order that you may fare well and have a long life. (Deut. 22:6-7)

Portion Summary

In continuing his last speech, Moses delivers specific rules on family relationships.

“If a beautiful woman is taken captive in war, you may take her as your wife. However, you must wait a month before you take her, so that she may weep for her mother and her father. If you do not take pleasure in her, you must let her go as she wishes, and neither sell her for money, nor take advantage of her.

“If a man has two wives, one beloved and one hated, and they each give him a son, then the man is not at liberty to give the rights of the first-born son to the beloved wife’s son over the hated wife’s son. Rather, he must recognize the first-born, even if he is the son of the hated one, by giving him a double portion of all the man’s possessions, because it is his birthright.

“If a man has a son who is disobedient and will not listen to his father and mother, then the parents shall take him to the elders of the city for judgment.”

Then Moses continues with laws involving many aspects of daily living, justice, family responsibility, work and sexuality.

“If a murderer is killed by hanging, then you must bury him the same day.

“If you see your brother’s animals go astray and find them, you must return the animals to your brother. If your brother is not near or you do not know the owner, then you may keep the animal until someone inquires for it and then you shall return it. You must apply this same rule to any lost items of your brother.

“No male garment shall be upon a woman nor any woman’s garment be upon a man.

“If a mother bird is sitting on her eggs or is with her young ones, you must not take the mother with her young. You must set the mother free, but the young you may take for yourself.

“When you build a new house, you shall make a guardrail for your roof so no one shall fall.

“Do not sow your vineyard with mixed varieties of species.

“Do not plow with an ox and a donkey together.

“Do not clothe yourself with wool and linen together.

“Make yourself twisted threads on the four corners of your garment.”

The specific laws pertaining to sexuality include promoting sexual innocence before marriage and stern commandments against adultery, rape, incest and children born out of wedlock.

“Keep away from every evil thing. Keep close guard to what is clean and what is unclean.

“You must not return a slave who has taken refuge with you from his master.

“There shall be no lewdness among the men and women of Israel.

“You shall not pay your brother any interest, be it interest in money or food, or anything that could be considered interest. You may pay interest to the stranger.

“Keep your promises.

“You may eat of your neighbor’s grapes but you may not carry the grapes with you.

“There are laws regarding the way a man can divorce his wife.

“When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out into the army but shall remain free in his home for one year with his wife.

“If a man steals from his brother, the thief shall die.

“Take heed of any leprous marks and observe and carry out all the rules concerning lepers.

“When collecting a debt, you shall do so in a righteous way.

“Do not withhold anything from a day laborer who is poor or a stranger. Pay them their rightful wages before sundown. Let him not cry out to God against you, for that sin would cling to you.

“Fathers shall not be put to death on account of sons, nor sons be put to death on account of fathers.

“You shall not twist justice for the orphans, widows or strangers. Leave some remains of your crops in the field for them, too.

“If there is a dispute between men, then they shall come before the court to be judged. The righteous shall be justified and the guilty condemned with strict guidelines.

“A brother-in-law shall marry the widow of his brother. If they have a child, it will carry the name of the dead brother so his name shall live on in Israel. If the man does not want to take his sister-in-law, she shall go to elders, who will confirm this fact, and the legacy of this rejection shall remain part of his name.

“All your weights and measurements shall be truthful.

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