“Thou shalt not deliver unto his master a bondsman that is escaped from his master unto thee; he shall dwell with thee, in the midst of thee, in the place which he shall choose within one of thy gates, where it liketh him best; thou shalt not wrong him.”
There is a tenderness about such a commandment, one of many aimed at protecting the poor and vulnerable. It fits with the command not to harvest all the corn, olives or grapes, but to leave some for the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, and the law not to oppress a servant. Other laws appearing in Ki-Tetze seem to be designed to ensure the functioning of a well-ordered and considerate society, such as building a parapet around the roof of one’s house to prevent anyone from falling, or looking after the lost animals of a neighbour until they can be claimed.
There are, on the other hand, some laws which, today at least, appear draconian. Stoning a rebellious child or the adulterous man or woman, or banning the mamzer (often translated as ‘bastard’ but, more likely, the offspring of an incestuous or forbidden union) from marrying a son or daughter of Israel are examples of such laws. Indeed, throughout the Torah, there are laws which are troubling, to say the least. Perhaps we should make a list of them and seek to explain or confront them.
Do not miss this week’s service on Saturday starting at 10:30, for it will be your last chance to hear Sharim Atilano for some time, since she will soon be giving birth to a son or daughter of Israel.