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Torah Talk - Ki Teitzei



For the Safety of Others
Ki Teitzei
Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19

Our world is filled with safety precautions we can choose to use or to ignore. Sometimes ignoring makes sense. If you have no children in your house, by all means, flip over the child safety cap in order to make opening pill bottles simpler. But, other safeguards should always remain in place. I doubt any of us drive without seatbelts or encourage family and friends to do the same.
This week our Torah teaches us about our responsibilities to make our homes safe for others. We are taught, “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you do not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone should fall from it” (Deuteronomy 22:8).
A parapet is a railing or a fence. During the Biblical period, roofs were flat. People would spend time on their roofs, making them a place to gather and socialize. What could be more lovely than having a glass of Manischewitz sweet red wine along with some gefilte fish appetizers while watching the sunset? After a few too many glasses, a tipsy guest might get too close to the edge of your roof. One misstep and …oops. Now you have one less guest as they tumble from your parapetless roof.
Without a railing, a family member, a guest, or a workman, could fall off. Our Torah is stating quite clearly, you need to consider the safety of others when building a home. You have communal responsibilities even within your own abode. If we are commanded to think of others within our homes, our private spaces, then what does that say about our responsibilities within the world? It seems that from the specific we can make a comment about the general – we must look at the world and ask ourselves, where are others in danger and how can we assist in removing that danger. We are not allowed to think only about our own safety, we must also think about the safety of others.
There is an old story about a man on a boat. He purchased a seat on a boat filled with passengers. In the middle of the trip, he pulled out a drill and began to  make a hole under his seat. Those around him become alarmed. “You will kill us all,” they cried. He responded, “It’s my seat, I can do what I want.” At the end of the story, we learn a lesson – living together means caring for one another. 

How can you help build a parapet for the community? By donating your time to a local charity? By lobbying our representatives to protect those without a voice like the houseless? By showing up for someone who needs assistance?

  • Moses reviews a wide variety of laws regarding family, animals, and property. (21:10–22:12)
  • Various civil and criminal laws are delineated, including those regarding sexual relationships, interaction with non-Israelites, loans, vows, and divorce. (22:13–24:5)
  • Laws of commerce pertaining to loans, fair wages, and proper weights and measures are given. (24:10–25:16)
  • The parashah concludes with the commandment to remember for all time the most heinous act committed against the Israelites—Amalek’s killing of the old, weak, and infirm after the Israelites left Egypt. (25:17–19)

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Sat, March 2 2024 22 Adar I 5784