I have no intention of going up that mountain anytime soon, but the idea of laying our wisdom at the feet of our children is not new. This last weekend, I was at a wedding and had the opportunity to speak to the couple before they signed their Ketubah, their marriage contract. I told them about about Ki Tetzei. I told them how the people were about to cross over, just as they were, into a new land where only they could go.
I told them that just as this was the last chance for Moses to tell the people everything he could remember to say, hoping they would take it all to heart as they began their new lives, the bride and groom were there, having received years of teaching and guidance from everyone in that room; and we all hoped that they took it all to heart, too.
The Torah teaches some core values for the people, and for a new couple building a new family, too. Just like the man who sees his fellow’s ox astray and must help get it back to the owner, be good to other people, and act with kindness. Just as you must take care to build a house with a parapet, so no one would fall off and hurt themselves, be a good and conscientious neighbor, protecting others around you….especially each other. Just as you are not to turn over a slave who has sought refuge with you, be a place of refuge for the community and each other. Be honest in business, and be honest in the business of tending to your relationship. The bride particularly liked the text about being her husband’s primary focus for the first year of marriage (“….to give happiness to the woman he has married.” Duet 24:5) The family unit is to be protected and cherished. And as Torah tells us it’s important to be kind to the needy, regardless of whether they are “countrymen” or strangers, I told them to live lives of ethical and moral awareness.
Like the Israelites, they will build a community based on the teachings and values of those that guided them to that point. They will be on their own, but not alone, because Torah teaches us to build a community that reflects those values.
Did Moses send off the Israelite people with a mixture of joy and tears? Certainly, we did.