Ki Teitzei Year I Deuteronomy 21:10-23:7 (Plaut p. 1322; Hertz p. 840)
Haftarah Isaiah 54:1-10 (Plaut p. 1345; Hertz p. 857)
Legal texts within the Torah provide special challenges for contemporary readers. Many are embedded in situations vastly different than modern experiences, reflective of a society whose structure is incompatible with our own and bound up in tribal life rather than the rule of law and justice we expect in a modern democracy.
In some cases, the principles implied by the ancient laws have been integrated into later legislation. These instructions of Torah share an understanding that power in the hands of one individual over the fate and destiny of another is ethically limited by their dignity. Other instances—particularly evident in this section—reflect harsh punishments in view of modern attitudes and perceptions. Still others seem to defy coherent rational explanation.
This critique might appear to be entirely a modern phenomenon. That is not so. Medieval commentators question the stoning to death of a recalcitrant child, offering the opinion that such a child never existed in Israel. It remains central to our personal and spiritual development that we engage with the more challenging Torah texts, read them thoroughly and develop through them principles for living in our times that reflect the uncomfortable as well as those texts that seem to be perfectly aligned with our world view. Were the world only good, perhaps religious law would no longer be required.