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This week's parsha Ki Teitzei contains more laws (74/613) than any other parsha in the Torah. It is possible to be overwhelmed.

I am going to focus just on two , the verse that begins the part of the parsha being read this Shabbat, and a verse that stands out by its counter-intuitiveness. I'd like to thank Sivan Rahav-Meir, and Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks for the light they shone on this parsha.

Deut. 24:5 teaches that a young couple needs time to build their relationship. In the 'normal' times, our life's hectic pace might make it difficult; in the time of the Torah it was no different. So, a man could not be sent to war, was exempt from public duty, and the couple could build their family home, and bond together.

In this time of enforced lockdowns,uncertainty, school closures, travel restrictions, it could well be that the time freed up from busy schedules can lead to building family bonds.

Deut. 23:8 - Do not despise an Edomite, because he is your brother. Do not despise the Egyptian, because you were a stranger in his land. Unexpected commands, with an important lesson about leadership. I am writing this with the background news of the launch of the Democrats' election campaign in the USA. This verse reflects on the central Jewish belief that God created us, regardless of colour, class, culture of creed, in their (his/her) image. If we look down on other people, because of their race, then we are demeaning God's image, failing to respect human dignity.

Egypt enslaved the Israelites, but Egypt had initially provided a refuge for the Israelites at a time of famine. They honoured Joseph. It was Pharoah's daughter who rescued Moses and adopted him. Edom was the other name of Esau. There was a time when Esau hated Jacob, and vowed to kill him. But, it does not follow that Jacob should hate Esau.

To answer hate with hate is to be dragged down to the level of your opponent. Martin Luther King Jr said: Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Always be ready, Moses seems to have implied, for reconciliation between enemies. Moses' two  commands against hate are testimony to his greatness as a leader. Hate the sin, but not the not forget the past, but do not be held captive to it. Be willing to fight your enemies, but never be defined by them or become like them. Learn to love and forgive. Focus on the good that is in our power to do.

Shabbat Shalom,

Sheila Chiat