Ki Tetze Batmitzvah
Rabbi Hackenbroch, Gila, Chazan Dov Speirs, Chazan Stephen Robins, family and friends Shabbat shalom!
Our sidra of Ki Tetze is remarkable in that it contains more commandments than any other during the year. A total of 74 commandments out of 613 are mentioned. The 613 consists of 248 positive commandments and 365 negative ones. In Ki Tetze there are 27 positive and 47 negative. Almost every aspect of Jewish life is covered here.
The Torah commands us to be considerate towards animals and not to cause them needless pain. In Hebrew the concept is known as (חיים בעלי צער) ''tzaar ba'alei chayim.'' Today's sidra devotes several mitzvot to this topic.
It commands us not to muzzle animals while they are working, and to refrain from caupling two different animals (say, an ox and a donkey) because their strength and working habits are different. The experience might be painful to both of them. The Torah does not specify a reason.
Many commentators assume it is because the animals are of unequal strengths. Hashem in his mercy has pity on the weaker animal the donkey.
Another reason for this law is suggested by Chizkuni. The ox chewing the cud is eating the whole time while the donkey does not. It would be cruel for the donkey to see the ox eat while the donkey is 'fasting.'
It is also a commandment to help an animal that has fallen on the road with its burden still on its back. The Torah stresses that we must help even if it belongs to our enemy.
The verse ''and I shall give fodder to your animals to graze, and you shall eat and be satisfied.'' The rabbis wrote that a person should not eat until he has first fed his animals. In later writings halachic authorities condemn the hunting of animals for sport.
The attitude of the rabbis in the Talmud concerning compassion to animals is reflected in the Midrash. It tells us that when Moses was a shepherd he showed compassion to a small tired lamb, by carrying it on his shoulder. Hashem said to him 'since you are a merciful shepherd I promise you that I shall appoint you to become the shepherd of my people, Israel.'
This week's sidra discusses another topic concerning birds. The mitzvah is called ''shiluach haken,'' (הכן לוח'ש) the sending away of the mother bird before taking her young chicks. The Torah promises as a reward for following this mitzvah ''it will be good for you.''
The Midrash here comments that Hashem does not want us to perform only the commandments that give us greater rewards. Hashem therefore hid the rewards of the commandments so they will be carried out with pure intentions.
Only the rewards for two mitzvot are revealed. The hardest mitzvah of ''honour your mother and father,'' and the easiest ''sending away the mother bird.''
When the mother is sent away she doesn't see the taking away of her young ones, and does not feel any pain. The eggs over which the mother sits and the birds in need of the mother are generally unfit to eat as food. The commandments will cause people to leave the whole nest untouched.
The Torah says that such grief should not be caused to cattle or birds. We should be even more careful not to cause grief to our fellow men.
Our sidra also deals with military service Ki Tetze lamilchma (למלחמה תצא כי) ''If you go out to war''. Like a lot of people in his generation, my great grandfather Claude Spero had to fight in the First World War.
According to my father he was a bit of a character - a lovely warm man and always smiling. He was one of the first to be called up to 'The Great War' and one of the last to come home.
During the Second World War he had several jobs, including one as an extra at Elstree Studios. For about 2 seconds he poured Sir John Mills a cup of tea in Scott of the Antarctic.
I am named after him as my middle name is Claudia. Our birthdays are very close - his being the 9th of June and mine the 7th.
My Hebrew name is Shirah (שירה) meaning poetry or song. ''Shirah song of creation'' lists 84 elements of the natural world, including birds and animals, teaching us lessons for life. The message is that we all have unique talents that we should use to serve Hashem.
I love animals, and I have a pet guinea pig called snowy. I play piano and recorder. I have benefited from a Jewish education at Wolfson Hillel primary school and I am now attending JFS.
I'd like to say a special thank you to my cousin Gad who has come over from Israel to celebrate my bat mitzvah with me, as well as all my family and friends, and everyone here at Woodside Park.
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom