We are now deep in the stream of Moses’ discourse as he goes through all of God’s laws, accompanying these with promises and warnings. It is as if he were a very wise old man speaking calmly and encouragingly with his children before he leaves them to go into the future depending on their own will and actions. Appoint yourselves judges, he says, at the beginning of Shof’tim. Do not erect sacred pillars or engage in any of the revolting practices and idolatry practised widely in the region. Resolve difficult judicial questions by consulting the Levitical priests (and Levites). Do not allow your monarchs to aggrandise themselves. Root out sorcery. Some of the rules are an expression of compassion, such as allowing those betrothed, those who have recently planted a vineyard, or even those who are simply faint-hearted, to return home before a battle.
Ki Teitzei continues in similar vein. Women captured during a war may not be sold as slaves or kept as servants if the captor does not wish to marry them. It is not clear, however, what choice the women themselves had in the matter. And what about the rebellious son who does not amend his ways even after flogging and may be stoned to death? The rules continue. You must help a neighbour’s donkey if you see it fall under its load. Do not take a mother bird along with her chicks. If a man bears false witness against his wife he may be flogged. A rapist will be put to death. And so it goes on, ruling after ruling, all designed to enable Israel to construct a just and fair society. If you don’t believe me, and even if you do, come along on Saturday at 10.30. Adam Feldman will put us right.