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Ki Tetzei 5765

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

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!   I received the following letter (to be read with dripping sarcasm): "What an interesting fax I received from you. Maybe we need to change our system. Catholics should only help Catholics, Protestants should only help Protestants. Why stop there? Bush is a born-again Christian, maybe the government should only help Christians!"

While I welcome feedback and am the first to admit that I am not infallible, one does not need to descend to anonymous faxes and sarcasm to make a point. I value feedback. It's the only way I know when I am wrong, there is a problem or a clarification needs to be made.

Last week I wrote: "While I encourage giving as much as you can and helping all who are suffering, if you are looking for a fund to help Jewish victims of Katrina, then fund is an excellent choice." Not everyone reads everything I write. And then there are those who read it, but it doesn't register. In any event, I would like to explain why a Jew might want to help a fellow Jew first.

If your child needs shoes and your neighbor's child needs shoes (and you could only afford one pair), for whom would you buy the shoes? Your own kid! If your neighbor's child needs shoes and a child in a different state needs shoes, for whom would you buy the shoes? Your neighbor's kid. And if a flood victim in your country needed help and a flood victim in another country needed help, where would you send your aid? It is basic human values and emotions to care about those closest to you first.

So, why is my anonymous (Jewish) faxer so upset at the thought of giving to Jews first? Like most good rabbis, I'll illustrate with a story. A colleague does campus outreach to Jewish college students. When he asks, "What are you?" he'll invariably receive a response, "I am a Catholic" or "I am a Protestant." When the answer is "I am a human being" my colleague knows that he is talking with a Jew.

Many Jews are so far away from connecting with anything Jewish and are so imbued with Jewish values of Tikun Olam - taking responsibility for the world - that they don't see fellow Jews as part of their extended family. They don't feel an obligation to help them first. There is even an embarrassment at the idea of helping one's own first. For that reason I was so careful to word my sentence about directing one's support for hurricane relief.

A wonderful book, The Tzedakah Treasury by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242), covers in depth most issues dealing with helping others with charity. It is a beautiful weave of inspiring stories and Jewish law.

Drawing from the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, (Yoreh Daiah 251), here are a few important laws regarding giving charity:

  1. Relatives come before close neighbors, then residents of the same city, then residents of other cities.
  2. Some money should be left over to help those in lower categories as well.
  3. Feeding the hungry takes precedence over providing clothing.
  4. Providing for the needs of a woman takes precedence over the needs of a man.
  5. A Jew should give charity to poor non-Jews.
  6. If you pledge an amount to a charity, your promise has the binding
    of a vow (Yoreh Daiah 257:3)

I do not think that the world - or the Jews - need to worry about the generosity of Jews to non-Jewish causes. Though the Jews in America are perhaps 2% of the population, look at the name on the hospital, theater, symphony, scholarship fund in any city where there are Jews in America.

The Jewish people are known as "bayshanim, rachmanim and gomlay chasadim" - morally sensitive, merciful and doers of kindness. It is our national character and our aspiration. We just have to make sure that our people keep their roots in Torah which nourishes these ideals. Otherwise, we will become a wilted flower - and then the whole world suffers!

For more on "Priorities in Tzedakah" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week
Ki Tetzei

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 Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of God, even the tenth generation shall none belonging to them enter into the assembly of God forever. Because they did not meet you with bread and water in the way when you came forth out of Egypt." (Deuteronomy 23:4.5)

Rabbi Shimon said in the name of Rabbi Eliezer that from here we see the punishment of those who withhold kindness. During the forty years that the Israelites spent in the desert they had manna from heaven, quails and water from the well that went with them. In addition, protective clouds encircled them and journeyed before them to show them the way. In short, they lacked nothing. Nevertheless, courtesy requires that if people come from a journey, they should be welcomed with food and drink.

For failure to afford the Israelites this basic courtesy, the Ammonites and Moabites were banned from entering the assembly of the Almighty (they were not allowed to convert to become Jews). This involved the exclusion of the males of these two nations from marrying a Jewess even if they converted to Judaism (Yevomos 76b). From here we see the retribution of those who failed to show kindness to those who did not need it. How much greater will the punishment be for those who do not show kindness to someone who does require it? (Vayikra Rabbah 34:8)

CANDLE LIGHTING - September 16:
(or go to

Jerusalem  6:09
Chicago 6:38  Guatemala 5:43  Hong Kong 6:07
Honolulu 6:13  J'Burg 5:43  London 6:53
Los Angeles 6:39  Melbourne 5:50  Mexico City 6:22

Miami 7:05  Moscow 6:27  New York 6:44
Singapore 6:46  Toronto 6:06


The goal is to fix the problem,
not to affix the blame!

In Memory of
Joshua Small
with love, his family

1 2 3 2,900

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