Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ki Tetze – “when you go” Parashah #1 – D’varim 21:10 – 21

Ki Tetze – “when you go”
D’varim/Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19
Parashah #1 – D’varim 21:10 – 21

            As I perused the parashot for this week there were numerous verses and topics which jumped up, caught my attention, and seemed to say, “Pick me, pick me!”  But with this variety of choices I have actually chosen the one that first drew my attention.

15If a man has two wives-one beloved and the other despised-and they bear him sons, the beloved one and the despised one, and the firstborn son is from the despised one.

טו. כִּי תִהְיֶיןָ לְאִישׁ שְׁתֵּי נָשִׁים הָאַחַת אֲהוּבָה וְהָאַחַת שְׂנוּאָה וְיָלְדוּ לוֹ בָנִים הָאֲהוּבָה וְהַשְּׂנוּאָה וְהָיָה הַבֵּן הַבְּכֹר לַשְּׂנִיאָה:
16Then it will be, on the day he [the husband] bequeaths his property to his sons, that he will not be able to give the son of the beloved [wife] birthright precedence over the son of the despised [wife]-the [real] firstborn son.

טז. וְהָיָה בְּיוֹם הַנְחִילוֹ אֶת בָּנָיו אֵת אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה לוֹ לֹא יוּכַל לְבַכֵּר אֶת בֶּן הָאֲהוּבָה עַל פְּנֵי בֶן הַשְּׂנוּאָה הַבְּכֹר:
17Rather, he must acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the despised [wife] and give him a double share in all that he possesses, because he [this firstborn son] is the first of his strength, then he has the birthright entitlement.

יז. כִּי אֶת הַבְּכֹר בֶּן הַשְּׂנוּאָה יַכִּיר לָתֶת לוֹ פִּי שְׁנַיִם בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר יִמָּצֵא לוֹ כִּי הוּא רֵאשִׁית אֹנוֹ לוֹ מִשְׁפַּט הַבְּכֹרָה:
           
            I like the thought and the ethics presented in this portion.  As we have seen so many times previously women were and are certainly protected and highly regarded by HaShem.  Women have held a position of honor from the beginning of time.  Yes, much of what we read demonstrates a patriarchal society, but without the women being highly regarded by the Lord, and therefore by man also, we men would fall far short of His expectations for us.
            In the time of which we are reading it was neither uncommon nor improper for a man to have more than one wife, however, there still was a Godly protocol for situations of this type.
            As we read in the verses above, there is protection for the woman whose son is the firstborn even if she is the wife less loved.  The firstborn is the firstborn, and there are no two ways about it – or are there?
            There seem to be couple extraordinary situations that arise in the Tanakh.  Commencing with Esau and Jacob it is well known that Esau was the first-born.  B’reisheet/Genesis 25:23 reveals that the older will serve the younger.  How is this accomplished?  By being the firstborn, the birthright belonged to Esau except for one small detail.  Though he had been in a temporary state of hunger, his yearning, his lust, for nourishment was more than he was willing to put under submission.  The result was that he sold his birthright to his brother for some pottage.  The somewhat ironic part of this is that this likely occurred during the time of mourning for Abraham.
            Since Abraham has been brought to the fore, let us continue with him.  This great patriarch had a wife, and only one wife, Sarah.  I am not forgetting that as a widower he did remarry, but he only had one wife at a time.  Sarai, her name at the time, had been barren.  Seventy-five yeas old and she had not borne any offspring to her beloved.  At her suggestion Abraham unwisely took Hagar as a surrogate for Sarai.  You know the story – Hagar conceived and bore Ishmael.  Fourteen years later Sarah did give birth to Isaac.  Isaac was the son of promise, the one promised by the Lord Almighty.
            So what was Abraham’s response when told by the Lord that Isaac was going to be the heir of the promise?  Genesis 17:18 reveals his thinking as he said, “O that Ishma’el might live before thee.”  We might pause to think here as to whether Abraham was already aware of the tradition of primogeniture, the inheritance of the firstborn.  Ishma’el was, in a sense, the firstborn of Abraham and Sarah, for Sarah’s own words from Genesis 16:2b proclaimed, “I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I will obtain children by her.”  If he were the firstborn, then he surely was deserving of the inheritance even if the line of Messiah did not pass through him.  However, it also seems apparent that Sarah never claimed Ishma’el as her own offspring.
            I cannot help but give conjecture that Sarah was certainly Abraham’s “favorite”, but he also knew, I believe, that the inheritance due the firstborn was owed to Ishma’el, for Ishma’el was his firstborn.
            Here I cannot help but compare our portions statements regarding the beloved wife and HaShem’s directive to Abraham regarding which son was the firstborn. The blessing, lineage, and inheritance were to go to  “your son, your only son, whom you love” (Gen. 22:2).  Three times in Genesis 22 the Ancient of Days designates Isaac as “your son, your only son” (vss. 2, 12, and 16). 
            In summary, I guess the words of the Lord settle the whole issue; Isaac was Abraham’s only son.  However, I cannot help but look at Abraham as being faithful in spirit to those who are the lesser respected/honored ones.  He was going to do what was correct in human terms, until being overruled by the only One with the authority to overrule.
            I am sure that there are several other examples that could be brought forth, and I know that an argument regarding these thoughts could be brought to bear on all sides of the issue.  Regardless, at least I see a connection in concept, even if my poor word usage does not convey to the reader such a connection.  I apologize for any lack on my part.

            May His name be blessed forever and ever.

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