Ki Tetze means “when you go out” in Hebrew. It is taken from the first words spoken in this portion of scripture. Here we find that Moses delivers a vast array of rules about many aspects of daily living, proper family relationships and responsibilities, justice commands for many situations, sexuality laws and many other miscellaneous laws. According to the sages 74 of the Torah's 613 commands are contained within this Parshah.
Let's break them down a little. There is no way all 74 can be discussed at length. As we go through it should become obvious that these laws are pertinent to how we treat other human beings. We should be able to see that God has separated a people and expects more out of them. They are called to a higher standard of living, one that exceeds the conduct of all other people groups upon the face of the earth.
The Beautiful woman:
This portion opens with instructions about taking female captives. In Hebrew the phrase “beautiful woman” has been called eshet yefat-to'ar, a woman of “beautiful form.” If a man captured a woman that he was attracted to and decided that he wanted her for his wife, then he was first to see that she shaved her head, cut her nails, changed her clothes, and then he must keep her in his house for one month while he watched her mourn for her mother and father. After this, if he still desired her, he could take her as his wife. Now, this one command is fascinating to me. HaShem here is declaring that a warrior, in the midst of war, was not to rape, molest in any way, nor shame a female captive. How many men of war would be expected to follow this rule? Check out history or watch war movies where females have, for the most part, been open to brutal treatment by the captor or captors. God instructs that the woman must be treated respectfully, and sex must wait until after marriage. If the man decided he did not want her after the 30 day period then she was to be set free without being harmed.
Firstborn Son Rights:
The firstborn son, regardless of favoritism shown wives, must receive a double portion from the father. This is justice by a just God. Polygamy brought nothing but chaos and jealousy to every family that practiced it; jealousy between the wives and the children. In this command Hashem wants to make sure that the firstborn rights are protected regardless of the chaos in the family.
Stoning a Rebellious Son:
A rebellious child was to be put to death by stoning. Now this sounds awful, but understand that this was one of those laws that was not frequently carried out. In fact, the Talmud records that there is not one single incident of this command that was ever carried out. This was not just the stoning of a 2 year old child throwing a temper tantrum, or a wayward teenager trying to exert his blossoming independence. This was a child of mature or adult age that actually would have to appear at the gate to the city where judges (elders) sat there an ruled on civil matters. It would be like a court of law. How many children, young or old, do you think would disobey their parents to this point where they knew that they would be stoned. This would only include serious offenders of rebellion against parents and disorderly conduct in the congregation. There are five areas listed for this rebellious son: stubborn, rebellious, disobedient, glutton, and a drunkard (21:20). To further understand this command we can look at Eli and his sons and David and his sons. Both of these men failed to discipline their children correctly and their sons came to a very bad ending. Children who have chosen to follow the five things listed above will most likely end up before a court of law for their crimes. It seems logical to me that this command was really a warning for the parents to raise their children in a Torah observant home and a home where discipline was administered accordingly.
A man cursed to hang on a tree was not to remain until morning.
Restoring of property to rightful owners.
Separation of the sexes.
Not taking the mother bird with her young (see our teaching below)
Making one's dwelling safe so as not to harm others.
No mixing of seeds
No mixing of garments (see our teaching below)
No unequally yoking of animals
Wearing tzitzit (tassels) (see our teaching below)
Sexual Immorality Laws:
A man is not to falsely accuse his wife of infidelity before marriage, or he is to receive lashes and a fine. If the woman is guilty then she is to be stoned.
A woman caught in adultery is to be executed along with the man involved in the incident.
Cases of rape
Sexual relations with virgins
A man is not to marry his father's wife (step-mother), or any woman of Ammon or Moab (Lot's descendants)
Those excluded from the congregation
Cleanliness of the camp site
Exclusion of harlots (sons and daughters)
Charging of Interest to kindred
Keeping of vows
Harvest gleanings for the poor
Laws concerning divorce
New marriage instructions
Leprosy (tzaraat) instructions
Wages for the servant
Fathers not put to death for their children or children for their parents.
Limit on lashes during punishment
Laws concerning Levirate marriage
Just weights and measures
Destroying the Amalekites
What a list! God is not bashful in His Word but lays out explicitly His desires for His children. There is no topic that was taboo. They were separated and called out to be a holy people. They were not to commit the abominations that the people from the nations around them practiced.
Nothing has changed! God is still calling us to be a set-apart people. Are we willing to arise to the occasion? Notice that all of these commands deal with how we treat others in the world around us. He is even concerned about a mother bird in the nest with her young. People that claim to serve God and yet mistreat/practice dishonesty with their fellow man, practice sexual immorality, or mistreat God's created animal kingdom need to re-examine themselves. We are not to be like the world in their habits and practices.
For further insight into these commands please see these additional teachings: