Several Laws for a Holy People

Aug 23, 2015

כִּי־תֵצֵא מַחֲנֶה עַל־אֹיְבֶיךָ וְנִשְׁמַרְתָּ מִכֹּל דָּבָר רָע׃

When you go out as a troop against your enemies, be on your guard against anything untoward.

Deuteronomy 23:10

הָשֵׁב תָּשִׁיב לוֹ אֶת־הַעֲבוֹט כְּבֹא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ וְשָׁכַב בְּשַׂלְמָתוֹ וּבֵרֲכֶךָּ וּלְךָ תִּהְיֶה צְדָקָה לִפְנֵי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ׃

you must return the pledge to him at sundown, that he may sleep in his cloth and bless you; and it will be to your merit before Hashem your God.

Deuteronomy 24:13

The next lengthy stretch of the portion deals with a variety of brief laws. We have broken it up into two sections for manageability.


To keep the camp holy, anyone impure due to a nocturnal emission must sit outside the camp until he is purified. Among a soldier’s equipment, he must also keep a shovel to bury his bodily waste.


If a slave escapes his master, you may not turn him in.


Promiscuity and prostitution is forbidden, and the wages from improper behavior may not be brought to the Temple.


One may not charge interest from his fellow Israelite, though it is permitted to charge interest to a foreigner.


If you make a vow to contribute something to God, you must pay up on time. It is preferable to offer your gift without a vow, because if something interferes you will not be held accountable by God for sinning. In fact, any oath taken must be fulfilled in a timely fashion.


A worker is permitted to eat from the produce he is reaping for the landowner as he works, but may not harvest a portion for himself.


If a marriage ends in divorce and the wife remarries, she becomes forbidden to her first husband, even if the second marriage ends in another divorce or widowhood.


A bridegroom shall not go out to war in the first year of his marriage.


A millstone may not be taken as surety for a pledge, as it is needed to sustain the owner’s life.


Kidnapping is a capital offense.


Moses warns the people to beware the tzaraat affliction by following the teachings of the priests and Levites. He reminds the people of what happened to Miriam in the desert as a cautionary tale.


Finally, Moses tells the people to treat a borrower with dignity: the lender may not enter his home to take collateral, nor may he hold that collateral overnight if the borrower is poor and in need of the item.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Is there a common thread among these laws? Why do you think Moses groups these commandments together in his speech (remember, the whole book of Deuteronomy is Moses’s farewell address to the people)?

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