By Rav Doron Perez
No Parasha in the Torah has more Mitzvot than Parashat Ki Teitzei. It is the undisputed leader in terms of the amount of commandments which it incorporates. According to the list of Sefer Hachinuch, there are 74 Mitzvot in this week’s Parasha, which means that 1/8 of all the Mitzvot appear this week.
It is rather challenging to detect a single theme uniting these 74 commandments. At the same time, the one theme which stands out above all others throughout the many different life situations mentioned in the Parasha is that of the family ethic. The sanctity and intimacy of marriage – the core of the family – and the governing context of sexual relationships is highlighted during the course of the Parasha across the vast vicissitudes of the human experience. Be it the captive woman, the hated wife and the reality of divorce – the concept of Kiddushin ( or לקוחים in biblical jargon ) – the sanctity of marriage – is emphasized. The Talmud learns out many marital laws from the textual nuances in this weeks reading.
The centrality of family and it’s core component – marriage – is a critical point in the context of the previous Parashiyot. The Parashiyot of Re’eh and Shoftim dealt primarily with nation-building, and the focus on our central national institutions – the Spiritual institutions of the Temple and priesthood, the Political institutions of kingship and statesmanship, the Judicial institutions of courthouses and judges and their executive arm – the police force. These form the core institutions for the collective creation and governance of our People.
However, in Parashat Ki Teitzei we encounter the most fundamental building block of nationhood and society, the foundational institution of all – the family, and particularly it’s core unit – marriage.
I had the privilege of delivering an 8-part source based series over the course of 2 months on our Yeshiva College Mizrachi campus in South Africa a number of years ago on the topic of marriage during the period that I served as the Rabbi of the Mizrachi Shul. What follows is a short summary that I presented at the end of this series which crystallizes in short, crisp form the essence of the principles that we clarified from our biblical, talmudic and halachic sources. They were entitled “the Ten Commandants of Marriage …and a few more” and appear below.
The Ten Commandants of Marriage …and a few more
1. You shall eternally love your spouse but will probably not always like them. Just as we don’t like everything about ourselves, it is highly unlikely that we will like everything about our spouses.
2. You shall always love, honour and respect your parents, but never forget that your spouse always comes first.
3. You shall always strive for shalom – peace and harmony in the house – not for truth. Being brutally honest in relationships and particularly in marriage can often destroy them. You need not always be right – but should always be smart.
4. You shall both expect and embrace conflict as your greatest guide and teacher. A seemingly peaceful marriage is not always a happy one, but at times the acceptance of an unhappy status quo reflecting the lack of a deeply positive relationship. Disagreement and dispute often hatch a more profound sense of mutual understanding.
5. You shall listen more to what is not being said than to what is being said. The ear listens to the external wording, but the heart hears what is really being said.
6. You shall never say “you did…” but rather “I feel…”. Blaming others can never be productive, but expressing sensitively how we feel always is.
7. You shall apologise endlessly – even 490 times a day. An apology has an almost miraculous power to heal rifts and facilitate forgiveness. It never matters who apologises first and how many times we do it.
8. You shall acknowledge your spouse and express constant appreciation – even 500 times a day.
9. You shall commit never to get divorced. At the same time, you should understand that sometimes, when every attempt at love and reconciliation has been tried, it is indeed a mitzvah to get divorced.
10. You shall never compare your spouse to any another. The principle of comparison is a sure way to destroy a sweet marriage. You should rather only have eyes for each other. It is as great a mitzvah to overlook as it is to look. We must enter into marriage with both eyes wide open, but once married, we must live with eyes half shut.
11. You shall forget about the futile thought of whether or not you married your beshert. Rather focus on turning your chosen spouse into your eternal beshert.
12. You shall not confuse being a good parent with being a good spouse. Children can be marriage’s greatest gift and blessing. However, they can also be a marital curse when the parents forget to prioritise continuously their own relationship independently of their children.