Ki Tetzei 2015: Memory, Strangers … and Dogs?
by Adam J. Rosenbaum
According to one count, there are 74 different commandments mentioned in this week’s Torah portion. These rules mainly provide guidelines to counteract that which threatens the fabric of society: unfaithful spouses, unruly teenagers, irresponsible homeowners, financial cheaters, and nefarious enemies. It’s hard to know where to begin, but we’ll try nevertheless …
Here are some texts from this week’s Torah portion, with commentary and topics for you to discuss:
Text #1: “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your kinsman. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land.” – Deuteronomy 23:8
Commentary: “R. Yosi began to speak in praise of hospitality, expounding the verse, ‘You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your kinsman. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land.’ Have we not here an argument a fortiori? If such was the reward of the Egyptians who befriended the Israelites only for their own purposes, as it says, ‘And if you know any capable men among them, put them in charge of my lifestock [Genesis 47:6],’ how much more will it be for one who entertains a scholar in his house and gives him to eat and drink and allows him the use of his possessions!” – BT Berakhot 63b
Questions: The Talmudic tractate of Berakhot expounds on the verse in our Torah portion to point out the importance of not only refraining from hating the stranger, but also of being proactive in welcoming the stranger. But just because we don’t hate certain people, does that mean we should be so eager to invite them into our lives? Or, rather, can the imperative to welcome enable us to establish connections with those that we would have avoided had we only tolerated them and kept them at a distance?
Text #2: “You shall not bring the fee of a whore or the pay of a dog into the house of the Lord your God in fulfillment of any vow, for both are abhorrent to the Lord your God.” – Deuteronomy 23:19
Commentary: “One that is born from the side, the hire of a harlot or the price of a dog, is invalid. Rabbi Eliezer rules that it is valid, for it is written, ‘You shall not bring the fee of a whore or the pay of a dog into the house of the Lord your God’, while this was not brought into the house.” – Mishnah Parah 2:3
Question: A common understanding of this verse and this Mishnah is that “the price of a dog” refers to money stemming from male prostitution. If so, why is female prostitution referred to so directly, while male prostitution is mentioned only as an expression?
Text #3: “Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam on the journey after you left Egypt.” – Deuteronomy 24:9
Commentary: Remember the Exodus from Egypt. Remember what happened at Mount Sinai. Remember the attack of Amalek. Remember the sin of the Golden Calf. Remember what happened when Miriam criticized Moses. Remember the Shabbat. – The Six Remembrances
Questions: The Six Remembrances represent the six times that the Torah specifically said to “remember” something. Some prayer books suggest that Jews should recite these passages daily following morning services. Are there other events or laws from the Torah that also should appear on this list, even if the Torah didn’t say specifically to “remember” them? Is there a common thread between these Remembrances? If we were to choose six statements to remember in modern times, what would they be?
Emanu-El Happenings: Our synagogue’s USY chapter, COSY, is a source of immense pride to the congregation. This Shabbat, COSY will once again host a gathering of Conservative Jewish teens, as USY officers from across the southeast will meet for Ein Gedi’s Chapter President’s Weekend. These USYers will lead much of our Shabbat services this weekend. We welcome our guests and encourage our congregation to continue supporting these emerging Jewish leaders.
The Big Inning at the End: Since we spoke of the memory, it’s appropriate to bring up one of the most colorful men in baseball history, Casey Stengel. Stengel, who managed the New York Yankees during the team’s most successful era, is perhaps even more beloved for leading the New York Mets in the mid-1960s, arguably some of the worst teams in baseball history. Stengel’s memory – if we can call it that – adds to the lore surrounding the team’s early years.
As Janet Paskin wrote in her book Tales From The 1962 New York Mets Dugout:
“Lindsey [Nelson] did an interview with Casey Stengel in our first broadcast,” recalled Ralph Kiner. “He asked Casey to name the starters. And [Stengel] went on for 23 minutes by the clock. … After 23 minutes, Lindsey said to him, ‘Casey, you’ve mentioned everyone except who’s going to play right field.’ Well, Casey couldn’t think of his name. So he started out, ‘The fellow out there, he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds,’ and he went on and on, etcetra, etcetra. Finally, he said, ‘… and when he hits it he’ll ring a bell and that’s his name, Gus Bell.’”