Parshat Ki Tetzei: Deuteronomy 21:10-
25:19; Isaiah 54:1-54:10.
teeped in law and surrounded
by war, such was Rome in its
Though Rome may have wanted to
be remembered for its legal system
that dominated the Western World for
well over two millennia, to the Jews it
will always be known for its sacking of
our Holy Temple, which we continue
to commemorate in this week's haf-
tarah of condolence.
Like Rome at its apex, our Torah
reading is filled with august legislation
and bracketed by battle.
Our rabbis note that Ki
Tetzei contains a pantheon
of commandments unparal-
leled by any other parshah.
Critics, however, focus on
the bellicose beginning
and disturbing end of the
reading, which opens with
the permission to capture
women in war and con-
cludes with the imperative
to obliterate the Amalekites.
Our tradition has offered
apologia for these unsettling statutes,
but the ancient world was comfortable
combining humanity's core, if contra-
dictory, drives: the pursuit of justice
and civility and the lust for conflict
Law and war also represent two
roads that lead to the same desti-
nation. Scores are settled through
combat; what distinguishes the civil
society from the barbaric is whether
the forum to decide disputes is one of
words or weapons.
While our own republic is often
criticized for its legions of litigators, a
society surfeited by lawyers is a society
governed by law. The great Roman
lawyer Cicero observed, "What an ugly
beast is the ape, and how like us!"
What keeps man from behaving like
monkeys is the rule of law. These laws,
Cicero argued, also apply when going
forth in battle. Biblical and Roman
legislation agree that there are rules of
combat, and campaigns are fought dif-
ferently depending on the enemy.
The two most discredited decrees in
our Torah portion each contain a pow-
erful moral message about behavior
in battle: captives must be treated as
humans, not material spoil, and total
proscription is prescribed only for
mortal enemies — it is not the normal
Jewish military practice. These dif-
ficult laws stand out precisely because
they are not indicative of general
biblical practice. As Cicero was first
to point out, the exception proves the
Roman and Jew were also in agree-
ment that law serves both God and
man. Both the Classical and biblical
worlds admonish humans to serve
the state and its citizens by following
civil legislation and to serve
the divine through ritual
sacrifice. To quote the most
famous "messianic" Jew of
the Roman era, "Render
unto Caesar the things that
are Caesar's, and unto God
the things that are God's."
But the Bible is alone
in antiquity in asserting
that observing civil law is
important to the Almighty.
Only the God of Israel cared
about man's treatment of
his fellow man. As we read this week,
"Everyone who deals dishonestly [with
his neighbor] is abhorrent to the Lord
your God." According to our sages, it
was this sin alone — hatred among
humans — that led to the destruction
of Herod's Temple by Titus' forces.
Chief among these transgressions
was the sin of hubris, which also
brought an end to the Roman Empire.
For instance, Cicero insisted, "No poet
or orator has ever existed who believed
there was any better than himself."
Not so. Such arrogance would have
been unimaginable to Moses, whose
final speeches comprise these last
chapters of Deuteronomy. As leader,
legislator and lecturer, Moses' modesty
Long after the conflagration of the
Temple and Coliseum, the fiery words
of the Five Books of Moses still stand
strong. Looking back at Tisha b'Av and
forward to the spiritual renaissance of
the High Holidays, we remember the
lesson of Rome and Jerusalem: Pride
goeth before the fall.
Rabbi Eric Grossman is head of school
at Frankel Jewish Academy in West
From the archives of the Detroit Jewish News
September 24, 1948
OUR LETTER BOX
Reader Raises Question
Of Youth's Social Events
Editor, The Jewish News:
Jewish youth cries "How do we meet members of the opposite sex?" They ask
for more dances and social gatherings in hopes of meeting someone real nice. Did
anyone every bother to observe what goes on at one of these dances? It is amusing
to watch the fellows in particular ... they enter the ballroom, look around to see
what girls are present. The girls are all together, trying not to look conspicuous.
Two sets of dances pass, and the fellows still haven't found anyone they care
to dance with. The girls look all right ... they are neatly dressed, some are more
attractive than others, some have more poise than others, but they are all really nice
girls who come from nice Jewish homes and only want to meet some nice Jewish
fellow who comes from a nice home.
What are these dances for anyhow? What is wrong with Jewish youth today?
— A DISTURBED READER
September 19, 1980
HMC COMMITTEE SIGNS
MEMORIAL CENTER CONTRACT
Samuel Hechtman, chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Center-Jewish
Community Center building committee has announced that architect Leonard G.
Siegal has been retained to build the Holocaust Memorial Center. The HMC will be
constructed as an addition to the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield. It
will continue to function as an independent institution.
Hechtman, who heads the building committee with associate chairman Saul
Waldman, hailed the choice of Siegal as architect, noting the company's broad
experience in building and planning. The chairman of the Holocaust Memorial
Center board of directors, Leon Halpern, said the proposed design of the structure
will lend dignity to the memorial center concept.
The Detroit Jewish News Foundation's goal is to digitize every issue of
the Jewish News, dating to March 27, 1942, and make them available and
searchable to the public. The Foundation will also support and sponsor
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and share this historical community resource.
To assist the Foundation in its work, simply go to
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click on the word "donate"
at the top right portion of the home page.
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August 30 • 2012