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Ki Tetzei 5777

Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  Last week I wrote a meaningful piece on making the world a better place by treating each other with kindness. I received a thoughtful email which essentially said, "Beloved rabbi, what a wonderful, uplifting, instructive article on bringing peace to the world through increasing acts of kindness. I just have one question. How do we get the people in ISIS, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups to read it? Yes, we all need reminders to treat each other with respect, but how will it stop the crazies and the acts of terror?"

Yes ... I did notice ... there were two questions. However, let us be kind, respectful and understanding -- they both really fit into one question.

Shortly, after reading the email I came across a Dvar Torah from Rabbi Avraham Twerski with insights and a possible answer to the question(s) in his explanation of the verse, "If a matter of judgment is hidden from you, between blood and blood, between verdict and verdict, between plague and plague, matters of dispute in your cities ... "(you shall bring it to the Judges in your day) (Deut. 17:8).

Writes Rabbi Twerski, "The Midrash states that the heavenly angels asked God why so much Jewish blood has been shed, why Jews suffer from harsh judgments and why they are exiled. God said, 'Because there is no peace among them.'

"The Arizal (a renowned Kabbalist) said that the answer is hinted to in the above verse. If you wonder why Jewish blood is so readily spilled -- 'between blood and blood,' why Jews are the victims of harsh verdicts -- 'between verdict and verdict,' why Jews suffer -- 'between plague and plague' and why they are driven from country to country, it is because of 'matters of dispute in your communities' -- because of the dissension among Jews.

"Alas! We fail to learn from history. For more than 2,000 years we have suffered indescribable calamities: exile, expulsions, pogroms, the Holocaust and now terrorism. This tragic course of events resulted from only one shortcoming: divisiveness and dissension among us. The Talmud tells us that if there were true unity among Jews, we would be invincible. Yet, we continue the same behavior that has been responsible for all these miseries.

Continues Rabbi Twerski, "In my work treating alcoholics, I regularly see people who refuse to recognize that their drinking is the cause of their ruination. At some point, when they reach a 'rock-bottom' their suffering breaks through their denial and they recognize alcohol as being the culprit.

"Were the horrors of the Holocaust not a sufficiently severe 'rock-bottom'? Do we have to invite additional suffering before we come to the realization that in spite of our differences, we must find ways to bridge the gaps and have true unity?"

Rabbi Twerski gives a very heavy answer -- there are consequences to our actions and therefore we must have peace among ourselves. Whether you agree or disagree with the Arizal's understanding, whether you find it irritating or maddening, does not make it true or false. However, let us take the lesson and treat each other with greater respect and kindness -- and see if it works!

Meanwhile, with so much anti-Semitism on the rise, here is something you can give to your "favorite" anti-Semite:



"It's a free world; you don't have to like Jews, but if you don't, I suggest that you boycott certain Jewish products, like the Wasserman test for syphilis; digitalis, discovered by a Dr. Nuslin; insulin, discovered by Dr. Minofsky; chloral hydrate for convulsions, discovered by Dr. Lifreich; the Schick test for diphtheria; vitamins, discovered by Dr. Funk; streptomycin, discovered by Dr. Selman Abraham Waksman; the polio pill by Dr. A. Sabin and the polio vaccine by Dr. Jonas Salk.

"Go on, boycott! Humanitarian consistency requires that my people offer all these gifts to all people of the world. Fanatic consistency requires that all bigots accept syphilis, diabetes, convulsions, malnutrition, infantile paralysis and tuberculosis as a matter of principle.

"You want to be mad? Be mad! But I'm telling you, you ain't going to feel so good!"


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Torah Portion of the week

Ki Tetzei, Deuteronomy 21:10 -- 25:19

Topics in this week's portion include: Women Captives, First-Born's Share, The Rebellious Son, Hanging and Burial, Returning Lost Articles, The Fallen Animal, Transvestitism, The Bird's Nest, Guard-Rails, Mixed Agriculture, Forbidden Combinations, Bound Tassels, Defamed Wife, Penalty for Adultery, Betrothed Maiden, Rape, Unmarried Girl, Mutilated Genitals, Mamzer, Ammonites & Moabites, Edomites & Egyptians, The Army Camp, Sheltering Slaves, Prostitution, Deducted Interest, Keeping Vows, Worker in a Vineyard, Field Worker, Divorce and Remarriage, New Bridegroom, Kidnapping, Leprosy, Security for Loans, Paying Wages on Time, Testimony of Close Relatives, Widows and Orphans, Forgotten Sheaves, Leftover Fruit, Flogging, The Childless Brother-in-Law, Weights and Measures, Remembering What Amalek Did to Us.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Almighty, your God, will give him into your hand..." (Deut. 21:10).

The Arizal, a great Kabbalist, noted that the verse refers to the Jewish people in the singular. However, regarding our enemies, it starts out in the plural ("enemies") and the verse ends referring to them in the singular ("give him" -- instead of writing "give them"). Since this is not a case of poor editorship, what is the lesson that the Torah is coming to teach us?

The Arizal elucidates: The Torah is telling us that if we have unity and are as one when we go out against our enemies, then even though our enemies are very numerous, you will be victorious as easily as if they were just one.

The importance of unity for accomplishment applies not only during times of war against an enemy. It is just as necessary during times of peace. When a group of people will work on any project with a spirit of togetherness, they will accomplish much more than if they would each be doing things as separate individuals.


Candle Lighting Times

September 1
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:27
Guatemala 5:56 - Hong Kong 6:22 - Honolulu 6:29
J'Burg 5:38 - London 7:28 - Los Angeles 7:01
Melbourne 5:41 - Mexico City 7:33 - Miami 7:22
New York 7:10 - Singapore 6:51 - Toronto 7:34

Quote of the Week

How good and pleasant it is
when God's people live together in unity
--  Psalm 133:1



In Loving Memory of
David L. Egozi, MD
In Memory of
Darel Parks

Love, Dad and Mom


In Loving Memory of
Milton Carl

Portland, Oregon


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