The Torah/Ki Teitzei

Summary Edit

The beautiful captive Edit

Moses directed the Israelites that when the Israelites took captives in war, and an Israelite saw among the captives a beautiful woman whom he wanted to marry, the Israelite was to bring her into his house and have her trim her hair, pare her nails, discard her captive’s garb, and spend a month lamenting her parents. Thereafter, the Israelite could take her as his wife. But if he should find that he no longer wanted her, he had to release her outright, and not sell her for money as a slave.

impalement of Judeans in a Neo-Assyrian relief

Inheritance among the sons of two wives Edit

If a man had two wives, one loved and one unloved, both bore him sons, but the unloved one bore him his firstborn son, then when he willed his property to his sons, he could not treat the son of the loved wife as firstborn in disregard of the older son of the unloved wife; rather, he was required to accept the firstborn, the son of the unloved one, and allot to him his birthright of a double portion of all that he possessed.

The wayward son Edit

If a couple had a wayward and defiant son, who did not obey his father or mother even after they disciplined him, then they were to bring him to the elders of his town and publicly declare their son to be disloyal, defiant, heedless, a glutton, and a drunkard. The men of his town were then to stone him to death.

The corpse of an executed man Edit

If the community executed a man for a capital offense and impaled him on a stake, they were not to let his corpse remain on the stake overnight, but were to bury him the same day, for an impaled body affronted God.

Found property Edit

If one found another’s lost ox, sheep, donkey, garment, or any other lost thing, then the finder could not ignore it, but was required to take it back to its owner. If the owner did not live near the finder or the finder did not know who the owner was, then the finder was to bring the thing home and keep it until the owner claimed it.

If one came upon another’s donkey or ox fallen on the road, then one could not ignore it, but was required to help the owner to raise it.

mother sandpiper and egg in nest

Ordinances Edit

A woman was not to put on man’s apparel, nor a man wear woman’s clothing.

If one came upon a bird’s nest with the mother bird sitting over fledglings or eggs, then one could not take the mother together with her young, but was required to let the mother go and take only the young.

When one built a new house, one had to make a parapet for the roof, so that no one should fall from it.


One was not to sow a vineyard with a second kind of seed, nor use the yield of such a vineyard. One was not to plow with an ox and a donkey together. One was not to wear cloth combining wool and linen.

One was to make tassels (tzitzit) on the four corners of the garment with which one covered oneself.

Sexual offenses Edit

If a man married a woman, cohabited with her, took an aversion to her, and falsely charged her with not having been a virgin at the time of the marriage, then the woman’s parents were to produce the cloth with evidence of the woman’s virginity before the town elders at the town gate. The elders were then to have the man flogged and fine him 100 shekels of silver to be paid to the woman’s father. The woman was to remain the man’s wife, and he was never to have the right to divorce her. But if the elders found that woman had not been a virgin, then the woman was to be brought to the entrance of her father’s house and stoned to death by the men of her town.

If a man was found lying with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman with whom he lay were to die.

If in a city, a man lay with a virgin who was engaged to a man, then the authorities were to take the two of them to the town gate and stone them to death — the girl because she did not cry for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. But if the man lay with the girl by force in the open country, only the man was to die, for there was no one to save her.

If a man seized a virgin who was not engaged and lay with her, then the man was to pay the girl’s father 50 shekels of silver, she was to become the man’s wife, and he was never to have the right to divorce her.

No man could marry his father’s former wife.

Membership in the congregation Edit

God’s congregation could not admit into membership anyone whose testes were crushed, anyone whose member was cut off, anyone misbegotten, anyone descended within ten generations from one misbegotten, any Ammonite or Moabite, or anyone descended within ten generations from an Ammonite or Moabite. As long as they lived, Israelites were not to concern themselves with the welfare or benefit of Ammonites or Moabites, because they did not meet the Israelites with food and water after the Israelites left Egypt, and because they hired Balaam to curse the Israelites — but God refused to heed Balaam, turning his curse into a blessing.

The Israelites were not to abhor the Edomites, for they were kinsman, nor Egyptians, for the Israelites were strangers in Egypt. Great grandchildren of Edomites or Egyptians could be admitted into the congregation.

Camp hygiene Edit

Any Israelite rendered unclean by a nocturnal emission had to leave the Israelites military camp, bathe in water toward evening, and reenter the camp at sundown. The Israelites were to designate an area outside the camp where they might relieve themselves, and to carry a spike to dig a hole and cover up their excrement. As God moved about in their camp to protect them, the Israelites were to keep their camp holy.

More ordinances Edit

If a slave sought refuge with the Israelites, the Israelites were not to turn the slave over to the slave’s master, but were to let the former slave live in any place the former slave might choose and not ill-treat the former slave.

Israelites were forbidden to act as harlots, sodomites, or cult prostitutes, and from bringing the wages of prostitution into the house of God in fulfillment of any vow.

Israelites were forbidden to charge interest on loans to their countrymen, but they could charge interest on loans to foreigners.


Israelites were required promptly to fulfill vows to God, but they incurred no guilt if they refrained from vowing.

A visiting Israelite was allowed to enter another’s vineyard and eat grapes until full, but the visitor was forbidden to put any in a vessel. Similarly, a visiting Israelite was allowed to enter another’s field of standing grain and pluck ears by hand, but the visitor was forbidden to cut the neighbor’s grain with a sickle.

A divorced woman who remarried and then lost her second husband to divorce or death could not remarry her first husband.

A newlywed man was exempt from army duty for one year, so as to give happiness to his wife.

Israelites were forbidden to take a handmill or an upper millstone in pawn, for that would be taking someone’s livelihood.

One found to have kidnapped a fellow Israelite was to die.

In cases of a skin affection, Israelites were to do exactly as the priests instructed, remembering that God afflicted and then healed Miriam’s skin after the Israelites left Egypt.

An Israelite who lent to a fellow Israelite was forbidden to enter the borrower’s house to seize a pledge, but was required to remain outside while the borrower brought the pledge out to the lender. If the borrower was needy, the lender was forbidden to sleep in the pledge, but had to return the pledge to the borrower at sundown, so that the borrower might sleep in the cloth and bless the lender before God.

The Gleaners (engraving by Gustave Doré from the 1865 La Sainte Bible)

Israelites were forbidden to abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether an Israelite or a stranger, and were required to pay the laborer’s wages on the same day, before the sun set, as the laborer would depend on the wages.

Parents were not to be put to death for children, nor were children to be put to death for parents; a person was to be put to death only for the person’s own crime.

The Olive Trees (1889 painting by Vincent van Gogh)

Israelites were forbidden to subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless, and were forbidden to take a widow’s garment in pawn, remembering that they were slaves in Egypt and that God redeemed them. When Israelites reaped the harvest in their fields and overlooked a sheaf, they were not to turn back to get it, but were to leave it to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. Similarly, when Israelites beat down the fruit of their olive trees or gathered the grapes of their vineyards, they were not to go over them again, but were leave what remained for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, remembering that they were slaves in Egypt.

When one was to be flogged, the magistrate was to have the guilty one lie down and be whipped in the magistrate’s presence as warranted, but not more than 40 lashes, so that the guilty one would not be degraded.

Israelites were forbidden to muzzle an ox while it was threshing.

When brothers dwelt together and one of them died leaving no son, the surviving brother was to marry the wife of the deceased and perform the levir’s duty, and the first son that she bore was to be accounted to the dead brother, that his name might survive. But if the surviving brother did not want to marry his brother’s widow, then the widow was to appear before the elders at the town gate and declare that the brother refused to perform the levir’s duty, the elders were to talk to him, and if he insisted, the widow was to go up to him before the elders, pull the sandal off his foot, spit in his face, and declare: “Thus shall be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house!” They would then call him “the family of the unsandaled one.”

If two men fought with each other, and to save her husband the wife of one seized the other man’s genitals, then her hand was to be cut off.

The Israelites were forbidden to have alternate weights or measures, larger and smaller, but were required to have completely honest weights and measures.

The Israelites were required to remember what the Amalekites did to them on their journey, after they left Egypt, surprising them and cutting down all the stragglers at their rear. The Israelites were enjoined never to forget to blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.

Questions Edit

Here are a few of the questions that the Rabbis raised about this Torah reading:

  • Why does the Torah set forth the law of the beautiful captive?[1]
  • Why does the Torah set forth the law of the wayward son?[2]
  • How extensive is our duty to return a neighbor’s lost property?[3]
  • How extensive is our duty to help a neighbor with his fallen animal?[4]
  • What does Deuteronomy 23:15 mean by saying that God walks in the midst of the Israelites’ camp to deliver them?[5]
  • What is our duty for timely payment of a worker’s wages?[6]
  • Does the law of leaving gleanings for the poor have continuing relevance?[7]

Notes Edit

  1. Babylonian Talmud Kiddushin 21b–22a, Yevamot 48a.
  2. Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 71a.
  3. Babylonian Talmud Bava Metzia 31a.
  4. Babylonian Talmud Bava Metzia 31a; Sifre to Deuteronomy 225:2:2.
  5. Leviticus Rabbah 24:7.
  6. Mishnah Bava Metzia 9:11–12; Babylonian Talmud Bava Metzia 110b–11b.
  7. Mishnah Peah 1:2, 3:6, 4:5, 4:10, 8:7.