Ki Teitzei – Sh’vi’i

Yibum, Yibum

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

* Pay your employees on time. Really. If they cry out to God because of delayed wages, you’re in big trouble.

* Close relatives cannot testify in each other’s trials.

* Don’t manipulate the court cases of a convert or an orphan. Don’t take a widow’s garment as collateral for a loan.

* If you reap your field and forget a sheaf, you may not retrieve it; it must be left for the poor.

* When you pick the fruit from your olive trees and grape vines, do not pick them clean. Leave something behind for the poor.

* If a person is found guilty of violating a negative law (i.e., “Thou shalt not”), the penalty is flogging. The maximum number of lashes is 40 (potentially less). To give even a convicted criminal a single lash more than necessary violates both his rights and the prohibition against wounding someone unnecessarily.

* Don’t muzzle an ox when it treads grain; that’s just mean.

This next section is a little longer, so we’ll forgo the bullets for this part, then resume for the rest of the parsha.

If a man dies without children, it is a mitzvah for his brother to marry the widow so that they can have children to carry on the deceased’s name. This mitzvah is called yibum, from the word for a brother-in-law. (There are all sorts of conditions, from the fact that the second brother had to be born before the first brother passed away, to exclusions if the second brother is married to such relatives as the widow’s sister or mother. The entire Talmudic tractate of Yevamos is dedicated to the subject.)

If the brother does not wish to marry the widow, they perform a ceremony in which she removes a special shoe from him. She spits in his general direction and says “This is what happens to someone who doesn’t want to perpetuate his brother’s legacy.” This ceremony is called chalitzah, from the word meaning to remove (the shoe). After that, she is free to marry someone else. (Nowadays, our practice is to perform chalitzah rather than Yibum.)

Okay, back to our bullet points:

* If two men are fighting and one man’s wife grabs his opponent by the testicles, you can go as far as cutting off her hand to save that man. (Some say this is meant literally, while others say it is a metaphor for the value of the fine like “an eye for an eye.” See Talmud Baba Kama 27a.)

* It is forbidden to keep two weights or two measures, one big and one small. (In modern terminology, it’s forbidden to keep two sets of books.) It is imperative to have only honest weights and measures. God detests dishonesty in business.

* We are required to recall how Amalek attacked Israel unprovoked as they were leaving Egypt. The launched a cowardly attack on the weakest, who were lagging behind. They showed no fear of God, so when the Jews settle the land, they must eradicate any remnant of Amalek. (This section, referred to as parshas Zachor, is read on the Shabbos before Purim. It is a Torah commandment to recall the actions of Amalek.)

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