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Ki Tetzei: Gleaners and Wayward Sons

Updated: Aug 21, 2018

"It shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow." (Devarim/Deuteronomy 24:19)

The name of this parsha means "when you go" in English. And it goes all over the place, covering what happens when you capture a beautiful woman in war, wayward sons, gleaning, wages, levirate marriage, and who is and isn't allowed to convert or marry in to the community (spoilers: Edomites are okay, but Moabites are screwed).

Gleaners (watercolor circa 1900 by James Tissot)
Gleaners (watercolor circa 1900 by James Tissot)

Given the references to gleaning, it's hard to read this portion without thinking about the Book of Ruth. Ki Tetzei says that anyone who's descended within ten generations from a Moabite isn't allowed into the community, but Ruth goes ahead and not only manages to marry in, but becomes Judaism's most famous convert (other than Abraham and Sarah) and the grandmother of Israel's greatest king. It's one of a number of example of exclusionary or unfair-sounding rules that women in the Tanakh go right ahead and ignore.

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Other lenses

Want to know what other Jewish thinkers are saying about this parsha?

Wikipedia has an incredible treasure trove of geekery about the weekly portion, laying out everything from the number of Hebrew letters in the parsha to summaries of classical commentaries. Prepare to go down a very deep rabbithole.

Sefaria is an amazing free resource--an ever-growing library of Jewish texts in both Hebrew and English. In addition to the Hebrew text and translation, it provides the text of most of the classical commentaries (not all of which have been translated... yet). The parsha is one of the first links on the main page.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, does a podcast called Ten Minutes of Torah--perfect for when you're time-constrained. The Union for Reform Judaism has a whole page of resources for the parsha, ranging from beginner's guides to pieces on the contemporary relevance of the portion. The Women of Reform Judaism site has a glorious archive of the entire text of The Torah: A Women's Commentary divided up by parsha.

My Jewish Learning has a summary of the portion, the parsha itself and the haftorah, and commentary.

For a Reconstructionist take, visit Reconstructing Judaism's weekly learning page.

T'ruah, the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, has a weekly d'var that looks at the parsha as a starting point for contemporary political issues.

The World Union for Progressive Judaism has a parsha commentary archive.

Keshet's Torah Queeries page provides commentary from an LGBTQ perspective (search on the portion name).

The Jewish Theological Society (the Conservative Branch seminary) provides weekly commentary at JTS Torah Online.

Yeshivat Maharat, the first Orthodox yeshiva to ordain women, has a collection of Divrei Torah written by women and organized by parsha, on its site.

Limmud, a 35-year-old grassroots Jewish learning event that started in the UK and has become an international phenomenon, maintains an archive of commentaries.

Liberal Judaism's Thought for the Week provides concise but thoughtful analysis of the portion. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks,

Chief Rabbi Emeritus of England, engages in profound commentary on the weekly portion in Covenant & Conversation.

InterfaithFamily puts out an animated Torahlog including contemporary reactions, poetry, folk music, and Jewish scholarship on the parsha.

The Jewish Renewal movement's site maintains an archive of commentary. Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, the Velveteen Rabbi--an author and Jewish Renewal rabbi--does commentary on her site.

The #parshachat hashtag on Twitter marks a constantly-running social media conversation on the parsha.

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