In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.
Joseph Shulam: The Importance of Historical Context 
The reading of Deuteronomy chapter 21 to 25, has some commands that sound strange to our modern Western ears. Take for example the first strange command:
“When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hand, and you take them captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her and would take her for your wife, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall put off the clothes of her captivity, remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother a full month; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife.” – Deuteronomy 21:10–13 [NKJV]
If we look at this text from the viewpoint of our modern post-French Revolution and post-American “Bill of Rights,” this command sounds strange and cruel and unjust.
Although the reality of the 20th and 21st centuries teaches us that this reality is even much worse than God’s command in the Torah. Rule number one for the interpretation of the ancient text is that you must interpret and understand the ancient text within the historical context in which it was written.
You cannot judge a text that was written over 3000 years ago with the cultural standards of the 21st century in the West, or of the 20th century.
Let us start with the atrocities of the Armenian massacre by the Turkish people. One and a half million people were massacred over a few weeks. Tens of thousands of women, wives, and daughters were raped in front of their fathers, and brothers and their children were cut in pieces in front of their mothers and fathers before they too were massacred.
We can continue on into World Wars I and II, and the terrible things that the Japanese did in Korea and Manchuria. The comfort houses that they organized for their soldiers with young girls that had not even passed puberty.
Now when you read the Torah and you see this command that God is commanding Israel – you might be filled with self-righteous indignation, but consider this: You are not to ravage her on the battlefield. You have to take her as your wife, not just jump her and rape her and then kill her or take her as a sex slave as ISIS did in Syria and Iraq, or like the Palestinian Arabs did in the massacres in Hebron on the 24th of August, 1929.
The Torah limits your rights over a beautiful woman captive and actually makes you control your animal instincts and put them under control for a month.
You can’t just take the captive beautiful woman and act like an animal. Stop! Cool down and control your appetites and passions, and respect the rights of the captive to self-dignity.
After a month you have to make her your wife before you can have sex with her. There is no ancient law either before the Torah or contemporary with the Torah, or even after the Torah, that takes such a high road toward the victims who are captives of war.
Yes, in the 12th century BCE world, throughout the entire Fertile Crescent (from Mesopotamia to Egypt), you will not find anything even close to the sensitive and considerate and morally upright legal document which is the word of God (the Torah).
Consider also the following: If this beautiful woman, after being a month in your home, refuses to become your wife, and does not like you, you don’t touch her, you release her and give her the freedom to go and to do whatever she likes.
She is a free woman and cannot be forced to be either your slave or your concubine. There is no such thing as a law this gracious in any country of the ancient world, and not even in most of the world today.
The God who created the world gave us a just and righteous law from A to Z… even if you consider the issue of slavery and the rules and limitations that the Torah places on a slave owner, the Torah of God was head and shoulders above any of the rules of Egypt, Babylon, Greece, or Rome, not to mention the Viking kingdoms of Scandinavia and Northern Europe.
I am writing you this because many Christians have inherited a negative attitude toward the Law of Moses given by the Lord who created the heavens and the Earth.
Please consider the following law:
“You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray, and hide yourself from them; you shall certainly bring them back to your brother. And if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until your brother seeks it; then you shall restore it to him. You shall do the same with his donkey, and so shall you do with his garment; with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he has lost and you have found, you shall do likewise; you must not hide yourself.” – Deuteronomy 22:1–3 [NKJV]
Does your country have a law like this today? Does United States law command you legally to take care of your neighbors’ cat or dog if they run astray and you see them wandering on the highway a mile or two from your neighbor’s house?
I lived in the United States from 1962-1964 and from 1967-1969. I lived in South Georgia, in the country, and I have lived in Miami, Florida and Rochester, Michigan, and in Nashville, Tennessee.
From my experience, most of the Christians that I knew in Rochester, Michigan, and in Miami, and Nashville, would not even get close to or touch their neighbor’s cat or dog, and much less so if their neighbor had a donkey or a sheep or a goat.
The only place where I lived that I could imagine that this command might be observed would have been in Dasher, Georgia. In Dasher the community was homogeneous.
The majority of the families were descendents of German Christians who came to America and settled on the edge of the swamps near the Florida border. They were a community very much in the sense of the word community. They were also so intermarried that they were almost all one family.
There in Dasher these laws would have been observed in the 1960’s. As for today I have my doubts! I would be happy to be corrected by the Coplands and Hams and Wisenbakers…
In chapter 22 the commands of the Lord continue to amaze me. Consider the command to protect and preserve the bird species:
“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall surely let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days.” – Deuteronomy 22:6,7 [NKJV]
These laws were given by God to Israel long before there was any sensitivity to nature or ecology. Here is a quotation from the publication of an intergovernmental organization (the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services):
According to the 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services by IPBES, the biomass of wild mammals has fallen by 82 percent, natural ecosystems have lost about half their area and a million species are at risk of extinction—all largely as a result of human actions.
25% of plant and animal species are threatened with extinction. In June 2019, one million species of plants and animals were at risk of extinction.
At least 571 species have been lost since 1750, but it is likely that there are many more. The main cause of the extinctions is the destruction of natural habitats by human activities, such as cutting down forests and converting land into fields for farming.
Take into consideration that the Torah is at least 3,250 years old(!), it was written in a world that had no sensitivity to nature or the preservation of species or to biodiversity.
Get some appreciation for the consideration of the word of God for things that are outside your church experience and appreciate the God who created the heavens and the Earth and loved you and me so much that He sent His Son, Yeshua, to die for me and for you…
Joseph Shulam: The Torah Deals With Real Daily Life 
The weekly reading in the synagogues around the world is from Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19. It is a long reading, and full of very important instructions from the Lord God of Israel for the community. Most of God’s word, from Genesis to the end of the book of Revelation, does not deal with religion at all, but rather deals with real life and the challenges that all human beings face in life, and sometimes daily life.
Let me give you a short outline of the issues from this week’s reading, Ki Teitzei (if (or as) you go out):
What to do with a female captured during war. This is especially relevant today after we have seen and heard what ISIS has done in Iraq and Syria. This is especially important because we have seen ISIS, all in the name of Allah, take young girls as sex slaves and sell them for $100 to others. This portion of the Torah, dealing with some of these issues over 3000 years ago, gave the people of Israel different instructions.
The firstborn male in the family inherits 50% of his father’s wealth. Today this might not seem fair, but when you consider the socioeconomics of that old world, you will see what great wisdom and fairness God’s word has.
What to do with a rebellious and renegade child!
This is the issue that the Apostle Paul is dealing with and explaining in Galatians 3:13 and Acts 5:30. Both refer to this text. In some old Jewish traditions, this text was associated with the Roman practice of crucifixion, and this is why Paul and Acts bring this forward.
This deals with the responsibility to restore what you find to the rightful owner. You are supposed to do all that is within your possibility to find to whom the find belongs, and to restore it to the owner. In the same text you have the good Samaritan law.
“You shall not see your brother’s donkey, or his ox fall down along the road, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him lift them up again.” – Deuteronomy 22:4 [NKJV]
The argument of the Gospel is, “how much the more if you see your fellow human being fallen or hurt or damaged on the side of the road.”
There has to be a clear difference between the sexes. Male must not wear or pretend to be a female. The difference must be held and seen in public. I realize that today this is not “politically correct.” The question that I have is whom are we, the disciples of Yeshua, going to follow? Are the disciples of Yeshua going to join the world, or are they going to follow our Lord, Master, Rabbi, and Savior?
Being humane to animals, and especially to the little birds, that do no harm but only bless nature and humanity.
Take responsibility for your action and do it before an accident happens. Building a fence around the roof of your house is only one example of this great principle.
This Scripture has great importance today. The principle is that there are things that don’t mix, and we ought not to mix them. Yes, at first sight some of these things don’t make sense, but after you think about it, you see the great wisdom of God. You start mixing together things that by nature don’t mix, even if they are benign.
Deuteronomy 22:13 – 23:9:
These are the regulations from God against incest (sex with members of your family, your children or your mother-in-law). We see in 1 Corinthians 5 that in the church there was a person who was not too smart and was having a relationship with his mother-in-law.
How to keep the camp (family, church, community) pure and spiritually clean. This issue is of great importance even today. How much sin and impurity does a community suffer before it becomes a plague?
The rest of this portion deals with a non-Israelite slave who runs away from his Israelite master. He must not be caught and returned to his master. He must be allowed to stay free.
The concept is that no one runs away from the good. If he ran away, it must be that his master did not treat him right.
There are other issues in this portion of the Torah, like forbidding prostitution, a worker has the right to partake of his work, and an ox must not be muzzled while treading the grain. Issues regarding marriage and divorce, social behavior and financial responsibility, and dealing with damage that is not physical but emotional, and public embarrassment.
My point is simple. Most of the Torah does not deal with super-spiritual and religious issues. The Torah deals with life. With building a healthy and godly society, that has righteous and just and equitable life for all of its members, and even for the stranger that is passing by.
The religions have taken this fountain of fresh and good water and sealed it under the heavy burden of religion and dogmatism that has snuffed the life out of both Judaism and Christianity. I know, from Isaiah 1 and Jeremiah 7 and Hosea 6, that it makes God ill when His people become so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good[ quote].
We must all remember the words of the prophets, and the words of the Apostle Paul to the people of Athens:
“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’” – Acts 17:24-28
Joseph Shulam: Children Must be Treated With Equality 
The Torah Portion (parasha) of this Shabbat is Ki Teitzei – Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19. One of the first instructions given in this portion of the Torah is the attitude of a father, who has two wives, toward his children.
The case is not simple. This man has two wives, he loves the one and dislikes (or loves less) the other. His firstborn was born to the wife that he loved less, and obviously his firstborn son falls under his mother’s status.
What will this father do in relationship to the inheritance? Does the father have the right to give his inheritance to the son of his beloved wife? Can he deny his firstborn son the inheritance because he is the son of the wife that he loves less?
Here is what the Torah says:
“If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him children, and if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved, then on the day when he assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons, he may not treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn, but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the first fruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.” – Deuteronomy 21:15-17 [ESV]
I find this Torah instruction extremely righteous. The right of the firstborn son cannot be a willful act, but it is an inherent right that is immutable, and if the man loves the mother of his firstborn son less than he loves his second wife, it still does not give him the right to give his inheritance to the son of the wife he loves more.
Of course, today in the Christian world, two wives are not permitted, and in the Jewish world only on very extreme and difficult conditions will the rabbis permit a person to marry a second wife. One of the few cases for such a permit would be if there are small children at home, and his wife is mentally ill for a prolonged period, and hospitalized and totally dysfunctional.
In a case like this, the rabbinical court could give this man a permission to marry a second wife, because he would not get a permission to divorce his first wife that is ill. In biblical times, two wives were common, and sometimes more than two wives where not a rare sight.
All our patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and many of our biblical heroes, like King David, had more than one wife. Not now, men have become wiser. They learned from experience that one wife is enough. So, although we don’t have two wives, we do have children, and sometimes our children are more obedient and respected, and other children are wilder and less obedient.
It would not be rare for a father to leave his inheritance to the child that is more obedient, even if he or she are not the firstborn. The Torah comes to instruct us that we must not treat our children by our own measure of judgement of like and dislike, but according to the law of God, and honor the firstborn child above our own personal likes.
We must do everything possible to treat our children with equality and not show preference to one over the others. It is true that naturally one might be more amicable toward one or the other child, but from this Torah principle we learn that preferring one of our children on the others will bring a disaster.
Throughout the biblical story we see families where the father or the mother preferred one child over the other, and we in Israel are still eating the humble pie as a result, even up to today. Just think of Rebecca and Isaac.
Rebecca preferred Jacob over Esau, and now thousands of years later the children of Esau are still hating the children of Jacob. Think of Jacob making the same “mistake” and preferring Joseph over his 11 brothers – how deep a hate was created between the brothers. Yes, we also learn that God can use our “mistakes” and make good out of our weaknesses, but even then there is a price that is paid for our weakness in observing God’s instructions.
Yehuda Bachana: The Purpose of the Commandments 
Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.
Shabbat Shalom. This parasha begins with a beautiful captive who becomes the wife of the captor, and ends with the command to erase Amalek. In the middle of the parasha, there is mention of the relationship between a man and his two wives, their sons, and the division of their communal property.
This parasha speaks of “hashavat aveidah” (“returning lost objects”), “tza’ar ba’alei chayim” (“the ban on causing animals unnecessary suffering”), “s’char va’onesh” (“reward and punishment”), and many other commandments, some of which are simple and understandable, and some of which are irrelevant and impractical today.
The Purpose of the Commandments
There is a long and undecided debate over the reason and the purpose for the commandments.
There are those who say that one should not seek the purpose of the commandment, but rather accept it as a commandment, from the mouth of God, for God is all knowing and master of everything, and we humans do not know nor need to know everything.
We do not see the full picture. Perhaps one day it will all become clear and understood for us.
The mere fulfillment of the commandment is what indicates the depth of our faith and obedience to God, especially when the reason for the commandment is not understood by us.
On the other hand are those who seek to know the purpose of the commandments, for a number of reasons: to understand them, to fulfill them with joy, and to renew them (when the original validity of the commandment has expired).
This is a long discussion in which both sides have good points.
Finding the Spirit and the Intent of the Commandment
In my opinion, it is important to study the “spirit” of the commandment, so that we can properly implement the will of God. For example, in our weekly parasha we are reminded of the commandment of the nest:
“If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life.” – Deuteronomy 22:6,7 [NIV]
You can read the commandment, so that whenever you encounter a nest of birds, you must let the mother go and take the eggs.
And there are those looking for nests in order to fulfill this commandment, seeking to send away the mother, and take the eggs, even though these eggs are not edible.
But the reason for the commandment is to prevent cruelty towards animals. If we want the eggs to eat, we must not take them when the mother is there, for several reasons. First, in order not to endanger the species itself.
And the second is more important: that we do not have a cruel heart. That we would feel sorry for animals – let alone human beings.
Invalid and Outdated Commandments
In this week’s parasha, there are several commandments that can even sound embarrassing today.
How can the Torah force the rapist to marry the person who was raped? Without asking the woman’s opinion or taking into account her feelings?
It is clear that this commandment is no longer relevant today, not only is it irrelevant, but it is also considered a particularly cruel commandment (Deuteronomy 22:28).
Or another commandment in our parasha demands the execution of all the adulterers. If we were to fulfill this commandment, half of society today would find itself under a heap of stones (Deuteronomy 22:22).
From this we find that the Torah is not a fixed set of laws that cannot be changed. Reality is stronger than any commandment, there are commandments that are no longer valid and are actually nullified, unless they are revived by an intention that was concealed until now.
Take, for example, the commandment of the tithe (Numbers 18). The source of the commandment is intended for priest and Levites, who do not have an inheritance and in fact have no ability to make a living, and therefore the people of Israel are commanded to tithe.
Today we do not have the Temple or priests and Levites, and we have brought a new meaning to the commandment – today we bring a tithe to the house of God, be it the church, the synagogue, or the congregation.
Our Duty as Believers in Regards to the Commandments
The constant duty of the believer who wishes to fulfill the will of God is to examine the commandments in depth, and to examine the spirit of the commandments – what is correct for the period, and what is wrong for the period.
There are commandments that are directed towards the enlightened and moral side of man, and there are commandments that serve as a compromise with the darker sides of man, and our parasha moves between these two extremes.
On the one hand, for example, we have the obligation to converts, foreigners, widows, and orphans, to leave part of our crops and possessions to the unfortunate. There is a relationship of righteousness here.
On the other hand, we have commandments that concern family problems and problems of power and greed.
The Importance of the Convert and the Foreigner
One point that we should take into consideration is the multitude of mentions of the convert and the foreigner.
In the commandments of the Torah, we the people of Israel are forever those who came out of Egypt, and we must never forget what they did to us as slaves, as immigrants, and as the weak helpless.
It is clear that a person who helps the weak, the poor, and the lonely, who loves the convert, is at the top of the ladder of the commandments, whereas the bottom of the ladder of the commandments is in the mud, the greed, and the forcefulness of man.
And the ladder aspires to righteousness, to the very best, and it is clear that the person who loves the convert first and foremost loves those closest to him.
The love of the convert and the foreigner is one of the keys to preventing war and loving peace.
How to Find the Right Balance
A fairly common question is the question of how one knows the right way, how one finds the right balance between the ends of the same ladder.
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence…” – 1 John 3:18,19 [NIV]
The sincere answer of the believer is love.
It is relatively easy for a person to love those who are close to him, it is harder to show love to others and strangers, but the person who succeeds in specializing in love, as if he is a master, is at the top of the ladder of the commandments. Indeed, in doing so he fulfills the purpose of the Torah.
The source of love is in God:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 [NIV]
Paul the Apostle says rightly that when we act on love – that is, caring, forgiveness, patience, a desire to see good, a desire to help and support others – we fulfill the Torah. This is indeed the hear of the Torah.
“…for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” – Romans 13:8b [NIV]
According to Yeshua, in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25), we are to help anyone we can who needs help.