chap 21:11 (221P [This refers to Positive Mitzvah #221, see accompanying Mitzvah chart]) - The first commandment in this parashah tells us not to molest, or sell into slavery, a captive woman in wartime. This commandment is being violated daily in the former Yugoslavia. Unfortunately the problem of violence against women is not restricted to wartime.
We are supporting the work of shelters for battered women in both Israel and the United States.
Notice how many Mitzvot appear in positive-negative pairs. The rabbis always tried to find a justification for having 2 unique Mitzvot for what appears to be a single law. The positive is seen as reflecting our love of God, the negative as reflecting our awe of God.
chap 21:23 (231P, 66N) Can you see why there are 2 Mitzvot dealing with the burial of an executed criminal? Ramban says that the positive commandment relates to the criminal's human dignity -- his body should not be allowed to be devoured by wild animals. He goes on to state that the negative commandment relates to the public health hazard of permitting dead bodies to remain unburied.
We are supporting the work of several organizations that preserve human dignity and health care in both Israel and the United States.
chap 22:6-7 (306N, 148P) Ramban explains the positive commandment as caring for the feelings of the mother bird -- minimizing her distress at the loss of her offspring. He explains the negative commandment as focusing on the perpetuation of the species -- permitting the mother to live and rear additional young.
We are supporting the work of several organizations that are protecting the environment around the world.
chap 23:4 (53N) Isn't Ruth an example of Moabite who converted? Why was she accepted? The rabbis claim that the restriction was only against Moabite men. Another view claims that by the time of Ruth there had been a mixing of nations and "pure" Moabites were no longer distinguishable.
We are supporting the work of several organizations that attempt to foster dialogue and understanding between Jews and their neighbors in both Israel and the United States.
chap 23:20-21 (236N, 198P) Here is the basis of the Hebrew Free Loan societies. Is it also the basis of the Merchant of Venice?
We are supporting the work of several organizations that offer free loans in both Israel and the United States.
chap 23:25 (201P, 268N) Anyone who has picked fruit at Ward's Berry Farm knows that they follow these Mitzvot. They permit you to eat while you pick, but ask that you pay for any berries that will be taken away from the farm.
We are supporting the work of several organizations that feed the hungry in both Israel and the United States.
chap 24:1 (213P, 222P) Here is the basis for both the Ketuba (Jewish wedding contract) and Get (Jewish divorce contract).
chap 24:5 (214P, 311N) Why do you think the newlyweds are told to rejoice for one full year? If the US Army had observed this Mitzvah, imagine all the additional weddings there would have been during the Vietnam era.
chap 24:10 (239N) If this Mitzvah were observed today, there would be no forced evictions.
We are supporting the work of several organizations that shelter the homeless in both Israel and the United States.
chap 25:5 (357N, 216P) The laws of Levirate marriage and Halizah derive from these verses. These are among the most mysterious Mitzvot in the Torah.
chap 25:19 (59N, 188P) Remembering to blot out the memory of Amalek is so important that we read this section again during the winter on Shabbat Zachor (just before Purim). Do you see a possible paradox in this?
One other perspective on Amalek points out that the gematria of the letters Amalek (ekng) equals that of safek (epx) meaning "doubt". This attempts to teach us that we are weak only when we are overcome by doubt and anxiety. When we are confident, we are strong and will not be overcome.
Most of the organizations that we are supporting attempt to build up the strength and confidence of those who may lack it.