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Ki Teitzei

08/29/2017 05:45:11 PM


August 29, 2017
by Nancy Sheftel-Gomes

In Hamlet Act I scene 3 (set in the 14th century) Polonius gives advice to his son Laertes who is leaving for France. He speaks to him about his character: how he should choose friends, choose what he wears, choose the words he uses. He tells his son how he should handle money and what he should be afraid of. 

In the 13th century in the city of Acre, in Eretz Yisrael, Nahmanides (the Ramban) wrote a letter of advice to his son in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. The Ramban cautioned to always speak calmly, choose words carefully, and practice humility. He told his son to not only study Torah but also to put the mitzvot that he learned into everyday practice. The Ramban had left Spain a few years before, never to return, after being forced into a losing debate with the church for which they claimed victory.

Recently I spoke with a parent who had just sent her son off to a soccer program. Although it was just a short plane ride away, she worried about what she needed to tell him, what to remind him of as he set off on his own for the first time. The conversation brought to mind my many “airport speeches” during family rides to the airport to drop off a child on their way back to college. I could share all the wisdom I wanted to my captive audience before I dropped them off. Ki Teitze​i​, the ultimate parent speech, always reminds me of those drives to the airport. 
Ki Teitzei means "when you go". Moses is in the midst of his final repetition of the law to the people of Israel as they are about to enter the Promised Land. This is Moses’s last opportunity to speak his teaching before they go. There are 72 mitzvot in this parsha and it is not easy reading. The mitzvot describe a complex world in which we each play a role determined by the words we use, how we act, and how we respect one another​ and prepare the Israelites for all the possibilities to come, much as parents do as their children get ready to leave home.​​
This has been a week in which we have seen the best and worst of humanity​. ​When we read the last sentences of the parsha which remind us to always remember what Amelek did — it awakens our collective memory.​ ​That collective memory of the never forgotten fears​ is what motivates parents when sending children off in the world, it is what inspired Moses​ ​in his final teachings of the Israelites, and it is what​ stirs people to stand up for injustice whenever and wherever it appears.

I pray that in the week to come those in need find comfort and peace as they go out. 

Sat, February 17 2018 2 Adar 5778