Parashat Ki Tetze

Decisions And Consequences

Parashat Ki Tetze contains numerous examples of how we should structure and categorize our decisions and their consequences.

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Decisions and implications about how we interact responsibly with nature

Should I be kind to an animal even if it is inconvenient for me? (Yes: do not take a mother bird together with her eggs; help an ass or ox that has fallen on the road; do not have an ox and ass plow together; do not muzzle an ox while it is threshing.) Interestingly, both the merciful human decision-maker and the animal stand to benefit from compassionate action (one from the thought process itself and the other from the specific action taken). Empathy has reciprocal power, enhancing the life quality of both giver and receiver.
What is the natural order of things and how can I preserve that? (For example, we see the injunction for each sex not to wear the clothing of the other.)
What responsibility should we take when we create something new? We seem to be commanded not to create categories or combinations of categories that do not exist naturally: do not wear cloth combining wool and linen; do not sow your vineyard with a second kind of seed.

Decisions and implications about how we relate to God

Should one speak a vow and create an obligation to God one must fulfill, or should one refrain from speaking and thus from creating?

When is one pure or impure? Does illness have the power to move someone from one category into another, beyond from healthy to unhealthy? Exodus is referenced again, alluding to Miriam's leprosy and its role in God's purifying her of past misdeeds. Is suffering itself an unadulterated bad thing? What is its role in forcing us to choose categories of action, whether of change or acceptance?

Understandably, much of Ki Tetze feels counterintuitive and/or ambiguous--like many of life's moral dilemmas. It appears to be more important to wrestle with such issues about how to structure and categorize our decisions and their consequences than to actually come up with specific answers to all the challenges we will face on our journeys.

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Heidi Rome is the Marketing Director at UJA-Federation of New York