“You must not hand over, to his master, a slave who has taken refuge with you from his master.” (Deuteronomy 23:16)
The chuppah, or Jewish wedding canopy, represents the household the couple is establishing. The open sides evoke Abraham’s tent and the midah, or measure, of hospitality (Gen. 13:1-3). The customary b’racha, or blessing, offered the newlyweds places the home in its larger context: “livnot bayit ne-eman b’yisrael, to build a faithful home in Israel.” This reciprocal relationship is the underlying message in Parashat Ki Teitzei.
Ki Teitzei teaches when your neighbor loses something and you find it, “… lo tuchal l’hitalem …, you may not turn away …” (Deut. 22:3). You must return it, even if this involves the inconvenience of bringing animals into your own home (Deut. 22:1-2). Living in a community imposes obligations.
Ki Teitzei requires a homebuilder to include a guardrail on the roof (Deut. 22:8). This is not to protect yourself; it is to protect your neighbors from accidentally falling. Building a home is not only a private project; it is also a commitment to the community.
Ki Teitzei’s command to be honest in business dealings (Deut. 25:13-16) is yet another reminder of the importance of the social fabric. Business isn’t just about profit or loss; it’s about maintaining relationships.
The strength of the community derives not from its physical size or might. Rather, it is a function of God’s presence within its midst (“For God, your God, walks in the midst of your camp…;” Deut. 23:15). But for God to live within the community, God must live within each individual. A just society provides for the well-being of each individual, but the ethical standards and moral behavior of the individual determine the well-being of the community.
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom