My notes on Ki Teitzei

Parashat Ki Teitzei (Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19)

Deuteronomy 21

21:18          If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

Comment: It is better for the son to be chastened by the parents, then to be punished more severely in the larger society in the future. (Of course, it will be even better if the son obeys the parents without being chastised. )


21:19          Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;

Comment: If the son “wins” against all efforts from the parents, he will have to “lose” bitterly in the wider society. At this stage when chastisement fails, the parents are commanded here to allow the law enforcement to take over, instead of indulging their son, …


21:20          And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

Comment: … since he is too “stubborn and rebellious” to be corrected by the parents. 


21:21          And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

Comment: The parents need to give away their “stubborn and rebellious” son, even if this means his death, since he is evil and evil has to be put “away from among you”.  “all Israel shall hear, and fear”: hopefully the deterrence itself will be enough to prevent such a tragedy ever to happen (see

I can imagine how difficult it is for parents to “give away” their children in one way or another. When my daughter marries in the future, I may find it difficult to “give her away”, after having raised her for so many years. However, children do not really “belong to” their parents. They really belong to Gd, who has given them to their parents. Many people were not fortunate enough to have any child. That is why Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac to Gd (Genesis 22). Abraham didn’t have his son Isaac for 100 years (Genesis 17:17)!  Obviously, it was Gd Who gave Isaac to Abraham, and Gd has the right to take away what He gave. By the same logic, all children were given by Gd and ultimately belong to Gd. So the parents need to be willing to “give away” their children in one way or another, should Gd demand so.  

In summary, Gd’s people should always put obeying Gd above their natural parental love of their children. This is a very “Jewish” teaching, see Torah Commentary by Rabbi Bachya ben Asher, trans. Eliyahu Munk, 1998.


Deuteronomy 22

22:6          If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young:

Comment: The Bible hints that most birds are kosher to eat, by only specifying the names of the nonkosher birds (Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14). However, practically, since we are no longer sure about how the Hebrew names of the birds in the Bible correspond to the actual birds, Jews only eat birds that are known to be kosher by a strong tradition. These are chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and pigeons (doves). See


22:7          But thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, and take the young to thee; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days.

Comment:  There are many possible reasons behind this commandment, including preservation of species, see, e.g.,  

The Torah itself didn’t specify the reason. The One Who gives life to all is powerful enough to “prolong thy days”.

Deuteronomy 23

23:8          The children that are begotten of them shall enter into the congregation of the LRD in their third generation.

Comment: This includes the children of Egyptians (from v7), who “shall enter into the congregation of the LRD in their third generation”. However, for the children of Moabites (v3), “even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LRD for ever”.  Rashi’s commentary explains why the punishment  on the Egyptians is lighter than the punishment on the Moabites. The Egyptians drowned the Israelite babies but did not make them sin; the Moabites did not kill the Israelites directly, but they lured the Israelites to sin and caused them to be punished to die (Numbers 25:1-9). The former destroyed the Israelites only from this world; the later destroyed the Israelites both from this word and from the world to come, which therefore deserves a more severe punishment. Similarly, Jesus said: (Matthew 10:28)  “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”


Deuteronomy 24

24:19          When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands.

Comment: There are similar biblical laws(v20,v21, Leviticus 23:22) that prohibits harvesting too thoroughly. This reminds me of the worldly knowledge of “diminishing return”, that when we work on something too thoroughly, we couldn’t get much in return so efficiently. It may be better to focus on something else to be more productive. However, the Bible here mentioned two additional aspects, that if you don’t harvest so thoroughly, weaker and poorer people can benefit from you, and that the Creator Himself “may bless thee in all the work of thine hands.”


Deuteronomy 25

25:12          Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.

Comment: Rashi comments here that “cutting off” the hand is understood to be a monetary punishment. He derives this from the same keyword “shall not pity” that appears in another context (Deuteronomy 19:21), where it is known that actually a monetary punishment is involved. What is the monetary value of a hand? It is difficult to know nowadays, but in ancient times, it is calculated by how much the value of a slave would decrease due to losing a hand. See a similar calculation at