Parashat Ki Teitzei (When You Go Out)
D’varim (Deuteronomy) 21:10–25:19
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1–10
As an introduction, I want to say that the subject of this commentary may be especially sensitive to some of my readers, and as I share my thoughts, I do not mean to point fingers at anyone, or to judge. We must always approach the complicated reality of life with a great deal of grace and compassion, while at the same time, standing firmly on the Word of God.
God's relationship with Israel has always been a complex one, full of deep love, but also great anguish for Israel's rejection of God throughout the millennia. In this week's Parasha and Haftarah portions, we see yet again the complicated nature of the relationship, but are also reminded of the deep love that God has for Israel.
In our Parasha, we read a short summary of precepts regarding the issue of divorce:
When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens, if she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, that he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her away from his house, and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter husband turns against her, writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand, and sends her away from his house, or if the latter husband who took her to be his wife dies, then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.
The phrase “finds no favor in his eyes” may be connected to immoral behavior or the like, which gives the men the “right” to present her with a divorce certificate (a get in Hebrew). However, there is no turning back and the man cannot remarry the same wife again.
While we see from what is written that Moses gives the people of Israel a way for divorce, we also know that the fallout from divorce can last for a lifetime. Why? Because God created marriage to be a permanent covenant between a man and woman, as we see evidenced in Genesis 2:24:
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be attached (be "glued") to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
It is not natural for a man and woman who make a covenant together under God, to be separated or broken. However, the reality is that since sin entered the world, so did brokenness, selfishness, lust, and ungodliness, of which divorce is often the result. I urge you, my dear brothers and sisters, to take marriage very seriously. My spiritual mentor used to say often "Marry wisely". After all, marriage is a choice and we would do well to choose wisely. It is not a game, or something to be taken lightly. We also need to remember that others around us get hurt from divorce.
In our Haftara, we see the striking difference between God and humankind in regards to divorce:
“Shout for joy, infertile one, you who have not given birth to any child; break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor; for the sons of the desolate one will be more numerousthan the sons of the married woman,” says the LORD. “Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, do not spare them; lengthen your ropes and strengthen your pegs. For you will spread out to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations and will resettle the desolate cities. Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and no longer remember the disgrace of your widowhood. For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of armies; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth. For the LORD has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,” Says your God. “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting grace I will have compassion on you,” Says the LORD your Redeemer. “For this is like the days of Noah to Me, when I swore that the waters of Noahwould not flood the earth again; So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you nor rebuke you. For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My favor will not be removed from you, nor will My covenant of peace be shaken,” Says the LORD who has compassion on you.
Being an infertile woman who cannot bring forth a child was embarrassing and shameful in those days. Often, people thought a barren woman was cursed. Yet, here we see Scripture telling the barren woman (Israel) to rejoice because she will bear much fruit in the future.
We also find here the wonderful words, “For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of armies; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth.” God is referred to as Israel’s husband, the One who made her and the One who will redeem her!
As we know, throughout history, Israel betrayed God by playing the harlot with false gods, and worshipping idols. God had the right to present Israel with a divorce certificate. However, God is not like us humans, and His grace is unending. I love what Isaiah writes in the above verses: “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting grace I will have compassion on you,” Says the LORD your Redeemer.
Yes, we find that God was angry with Israel many times, and yes, history shows us that God allowed Israel to suffer exile and be conquered over and over again as a result of Israel's betrayal. Yes, in an “outburst of anger”, He hid His face from us. However, His great mercy, grace, and compassion have been - and are still- shown to His people, Israel.
We can take great comfort in God’s relationship with Israel, knowing that God does not change, and His grace is extended to all people in Messiah Yeshua. Let us also be encouraged to follow His example in extending forgiveness, love, compassion, and faithfulness to others, especially those who are least deserving of it.
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