When you go to war against your enemies and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives . . . — Deuteronomy 21:10
The Torah portion for this week is Ki Teitzei, which means “when you go out,” from Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:1–10.
Rumspringa is a term used in the Amish community to describe a period of adolescence when Amish youth leave the community, with all of its restrictions, and go out to experience the world. During this time, they are free from the normal restrictions that dictate how they dress, how much they engage modern technology, and in general, how they behave. It’s a time for going out and letting go.
After this time of freedom, the youth have a choice to make. They can leave the Amish way of life for good, or they can return to it for life. Amazingly, after experiencing all of life’s pleasures, the overwhelming majority of the Amish teens return to the Amish way of life. It seems that after being freed from the restrictions of religious life, most people prefer religious life with restrictions in everything they do than a non-religious life with no limits at all.
In this week’s Torah reading, we read about the many laws that dictate a way of life. We encounter laws that relate to everything -- from going out to war to taking eggs away from a mother bird. Indeed there are a lot of laws in the Bible! However, these laws – and any restrictions that come from living a God-centered life – are not meant to bog us down; they are meant to raise us up. The point of all the laws is to help us bring God into every aspect of our lives.
The name of this week’s Torah portion is Ki Teitzei, which means “when you go out.” In this verse in particular, these laws refer to “When you go out to war against your enemy . . .” However, in a broader sense, we can understand that all the laws mentioned in this portion, and all of the biblical restrictions in general, refer to “when we go out . . .” -- anywhere and everywhere.
When we go out into the world, we take God with us. Our obedience doesn’t stay at home. Our allegiance to God follows us to the workplace and requires our honesty. Our obedience to God follows us into the grocery store, and demands that we treat others how we would like to be treated. Our partnership with God accompanies us on the bus, in the subway, on the street, and in the mall. We are required to bring God with us and share His light wherever we go.
Today, when you go out into the world, remember to bring God with you. See Him as an ever-present shadow right next to you. While bringing God with you may restrict your behavior, you are far from limited. Remember, anything is possible with God by your side!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President