Parsha Nugget Ki Seitzei – Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
As I absorb all of the terrible news from around the globe, sometimes I experience empathy fatigue. Then I see two sparrows protecting their nest from a raven and I remember this verse in Parshas Ki Seitzei:
“Send away, you will send away the mother (bird) and the children you will take for you; in order that it will be good for you and you will lengthen your days.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 22:7)
This week’s parsha contains more mitzvas (usually translated commandments) than any other, 74 in all. In it, we learn about how to handle a female POW. Then it covers the right of primogeniture and how rebellious son is handled. The prohibition of men not wearing women’s clothing and vice versa (Ooops for Uncle Miltie) comes next.
The parsha continues with rules about sending away the mother bird before gathering her eggs, making tzitzis (fringes) for a four-cornered garment, and how to treat someone who slanders a woman. Next, it details the penalties for adultery and rape, several rules about marriage and divorce, and how the Israelites had to keep their camp pure. Then it explains the laws concerning workers rights, kidnapping, lending, and punishments.
The penalty for embarrassing someone is given, followed by the admonition to have honest weights and measures. It ends with the strange commandment to remember to wipe out the memory of Amalek.
If you have spent any time in the backcountry, you know that wild animals typically run away when humans approach. So it seems odd that the Torah says a mother bird has to be sent away before her eggs or young are taken. But when it comes to defending their nests, birds will go up against bigger and stronger predators.
While not anthropomorphizing, clearly a mother bird overrides her instinct of self-preservation to protect her brood, an emotional response called love.
Primary among many,
So the Almighty permits us to take the offspring while insisting we ensure the mother bird does not bear witness. The bird instinctually acts to maintain the survival of its species. But since it appears to be acting out of parental love, G-d requires us to refrain from an action that could desensitize us to human suffering.
How do you sustain your sensitivity to other people’s misfortune?
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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!
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