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Ki Tetzei 5778

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

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  The apocryphal story is told of a man at the race tracks who sees a rabbi blessing a horse. Figuring the rabbi is close to God, the man places a bet and sure enough the horse wins! Before each successive race, the man observes which horse the rabbi blesses, places his bet and wins. However, even after following the same procedure for the last race, the horse comes in last. The man approaches the rabbi and asks, "How come every horse you gave a blessing won except the last horse?" The rabbi answers, "You need to know the difference between a blessing and a kaddish!" (Kaddish is the prayer said on behalf of those who have died.)

Most Jews are familiar with the blessing over bread, HaMotzie.

However, there are blessings for different types of foods, blessings for mitzvot (commandments) -- i.e. putting on tefillin or lighting Shabbat candles, blessings of thanks -- when one is saved from an accident, blessings for natural phenomena -- seeing a bolt of lightning or hearing thunder, blessings for life events -- the birth of a child or a death. There is even a blessing for after going to the bathroom. Don't laugh -- imagine if you were unable to relieve yourself or unable to stop relieving yourself. You couldn't live!

What is a blessing? It is a statement or affirmation that begins "Blessed are Thou Lord, our God, King of the Universe..." It is not that we have any power to bless God. He is infinite and lacks nothing. What we are doing is recognizing that the Almighty is the source of all blessings.

Why do we make blessings? Life is a matter of focus. We can eat and sleep and work and eventually die without ever thinking what life is about or the significance of the moment. A blessing focuses us on the Almighty and our relationship with Him.

In the case of food, rather than just tossing the food into our mouth, we focus that this food comes from the Almighty. There are two verses. The first says, "The earth and its fullness is the Almighty's" (Psalm 24:1). The second says, "The Heavens belong to God and the earth was given to man" (Psalm 115:16). How is this seeming contradiction resolved? Everything belongs to the Almighty. However, after we recognize that fact through making a blessing, we have permission to partake in the goodness (the food) He has given us. There is a blessing said after eating which give thanks to the Almighty for that which He has given us.

After hearing someone say a brocha (Hebrew for blessing), those who hear respond, "Amen." What is "Amen"? It is an acronym for "God is the faithful King." It is an affirmation that one places his trust in the Almighty. All of us trust in something -- our intelligence, education, money, power. In truth, one can only truly place his trust in the Almighty. As it says in Psalm 20:8, "There are those who trust in chariots and those who trust in horses, but we, in the name of our God, call out."

There are two ways one can say a brocha. One is by rote with speed and no feeling -- just to fulfill the requirement of making the blessing. The second way is to know the words and concentrate on the meaning of the words and the intention of why you are saying the blessing. Really, the second way is the only way to make a blessing. We just sometimes forget the reason why we make the blessing and how we are supposed to do it.

If one makes a blessing with thought and concentration, it is a growth experience. It makes a person more spiritual -- more closely connected to the Almighty -- through recognizing the Source of the good which he receives and through his expressing gratitude for that good. (Just as it is incumbent upon us to thank God for what He has given us, it is important for us to thank our fellow human beings for what they do for us.)

One time following breakfast with a devout Christian, I explained that I need a minute to say an after-blessing for the food I ate. He was very excited; he sat down, bent his head forward and shut his eyes. As I was saying my after-blessing, every few seconds he was saying with great devotion, "Yes" ... "Yes" ... "Yes." When I finished, I said to him, "I know what I was saying, but what were you doing?" He looked at me with great surprise and responded simply, "I was agreeing with you!" May we all recognize the Source of our blessings and remember to thank Him ... and remember to agree with those who do!


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 teaches an important lesson about choosing a spouse in this week's portion. Regarding a non-Jewish woman captured during war that a soldier wishes to marry, the Torah places all sorts of restrictions in the way of marriage over a period of thirty days -- so that his passion will cool. The Torah states regarding the soldier's ultimate decision:

"And it will be if you did not want her" (Deut. 21:14).

Why does the Torah speak in the past tense ("did not want her") when referring to the decision the soldier makes at the end of thirty days? The Torah "should" have spoken in the future tense -- "and ... if you will not want her."

The answer is that there is a difference between the term chaishek which means passion and lust, and the term chofaitz which means wanting because of a rational decision that something is good for you. The Torah is telling us that a person who wants to marry someone only because of infatuation and a passion that is based on good looks never really wanted the person from the very beginning (therefore the past tense is used). It was just desire, not an honest love for the other person.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, the founder of Aish HaTorah defines love as "the pleasure of seeing virtue. It is based on the reality of knowing the good qualities in another person. Infatuation, however, is blind. It is when your emotions prevent you from seeing the entire picture and you mistakenly believe that the object of your infatuation is totally perfect and without any faults." Love is not blind, it is wide-eyed; infatuation is blind. If you think the other person is perfect -- watch out!


Candle Lighting Times

August 24
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:37
Guatemala 6:01 - Hong Kong 6:30 - Honolulu 6:36
J'Burg 5:34 - London 7:46 - Los Angeles 7:12
Melbourne 5:34 - Mexico City 7:40 - Miami 7:30
New York 7:23 - Singapore 6:53 - Toronto 7:49

Quote of the Week

It's all good in the end ...
and if it isn't good ...
it isn't the end!



In Loving Memory of

David L Egozi MD, z"l

An Incredible Human Being
Brilliant Physician
Pillar of the Sephardic
Cuban Jewish Community
of South Florida

In Loving Memory of

Lisa Novick Millhauser




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