This week brings a mix of laws:

  • When you go on a raid against your enemies, bring a spike with you. Use it to dig a hole outside the camp and go to the bathroom there.  Then cover it up.  Sounds like common sense hygiene, but the reason is:  the camp is holy and God doesn’t want to see anything indecent in it!
  • Here’s a kind law:  You are not to give an escaped slave back to his or her owner.  You should let him live within your gates.  If only the people in the US who passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 had read their Bibles!
  • Here’s another kind law:  You are not to charge interest when you lend an Israelite money.  Of course, ancient Israel was not really a business-oriented society (according to translator Everett Fox). They did not have the system of banks and loans and mortgages we have today.  So if someone borrowed money, it was not for the sake of business.  It was only because he was really suffering hard times.
  • When you make a vow to God, even if it’s not written down, you should fulfill it as soon as possible.
  • Here’s another kind one:  If you go into your neighbor’s vineyard, as long as you don’t bring a basket with you and fill it, you are free to eat your fill of your neighbor’s grapes.  If you go into a field of grain, you may pick the ears with your hands, but you may not use a sickle to cut down a whole lot.  In other words, if you’re hungry, eat your fill.  Just don’t start emptying the guy’s vineyard or grain field.
  • If a man marries a woman and the man finds something yucky about her (the Torah doesn’t say what), he can divorce her.  However, if she remarries and her second husband divorces her, the first guy can’t marry her again.  (The parsha doesn’t mention women divorcing men.)
  • Finally, another law about lending.  You may have the right to take someone’s cloak as a pledge (sometimes called collateral), but you don’t have the right to barge into his house to get it.  Also, you should return it at night so he has something to sleep in.

Food for Thought

Do you see any influence of these laws in our laws today? How are our laws different?

You may eat of your neighbor’s grapes. Just don’t bring a basket with you.