Parashat Ki Teitzei-- Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
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Questions for Young Children
• What do you do if you find a lost animal or object? The Torah tells us to try and find the owner. What are some ways you can find an owner of a lost pet?
• Why do you have to try so hard to find the owner—wasn’t it the owner’s fault that the animal was lost?
• When soldiers camp, this parasha commands them to dig a hole for a toilet and cover it up after they’ve used the place as a latrine. Why do
you think God cares about this?

Questions for Older Children
• If someone is put to death publicly, the community is not supposed to allow the body to remain outside overnight. Why not?
• You may know the phrase, “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” Is that what the Torah tells the Israelites to do if they find a lost animal or object? Why do they have to work so hard to find an owner? If the lost object belonged to a non-Israelite do you think the same law applies?
• What reward will a person get for not taking a mother bird together with her young? Why is it cruel to take both the mother and her baby birds together?

Questions for Teens and Adults
• The parasha opens with an incident that is far from our own realm of experience. What values are apparent in the laws about taking a captive woman as a bride?
• There are laws dealing with adultery, virginity, etc. You may want to limit this discussion to a table with teens and adults only. What values do you see behind these laws? Which values have changed since the time when the laws were promulgated?
• This was my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah parasha and she was puzzled that the parasha instructs us to blot out the memory of Amalek in 25:19 and in the same verse it admonishes: “Do not forget!” How do you reconcile those two commands?

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More laws!! In fact there are seventy-two laws in Parashat Ki Teitzei. The first ones are poignant—what happens when a soldier takes a captive woman as his wife? How do you reconcile the joy of marriage with the pain a captive feels when she loses her family and her people? There are laws protecting the poor in the community like prohibiting a creditor from taking a millstone in pawn. Business ethics are included as well—weights and measures must be fair. Another group of laws defines Israel’s enemies and stipulates the appropriate actions towards them. Ammonites and Moabites are enemies who cannot be admitted into the Congregation of Israel while Amalekites must be blotted out.

Find the food connection...
.כִּי יִקָּרֵא קַן-צִפּוֹר לְפָנֶיךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ בְּכָל-עֵץ אוֹ עַל-הָאָרֶץ, אֶפְרֹחִים אוֹ בֵיצִים, וְהָאֵם רֹבֶצֶת עַל-הָאֶפְרֹחִים, אוֹ עַל-הַבֵּיצִים--לֹא-תִקַּח הָאֵם, עַל-הַבָּנִים

If, along the road, you chance upon a bird’s nest, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs and the mother sitting over the fledglings or eggs, do not take the mother together with her young.
--Deuteronomy 22:6

Birds’ Nests!


The Side Dish

Years ago I was assigned to teach Freshman English as well as Ancient and Medieval History. I decided to expand my knowledge of English literature that might appeal to ninth graders and signed up for an NEH  course in Arthurian Literature. While I enjoyed the legends, I was even more taken by the Welsh laws of King Arthur’s time and spent hours in the library reading the law codes. Why were they so compelling? A law code offers a window into the way a society thinks. Law codes tell us what a nation values and what a nation fears.

I felt the same when I studied Hammurabi’s Code in Akkadian class. Again, I know I should have been fascinated by the language but to me the law code itself was even more interesting especially since many Babylonian laws parallel laws of the Torah. I did not find a law in Hammurabi's code that spoke to finding a bird's nest on the ground.

This week you can poll your table and see if anyone has knowledge of other law codes beside the mitzvot of the Torah and talk about what these laws indicate about the society that legislated them. If you want to do some research, take a look at laws that have been repealed in the U.S. This website highlights obsolete laws across the US. Are there laws you’d like to see repealed because you feel they're obsolete?

For a Torah based discussion you might select a few of the laws in Ki Teitzei and talk about how they could be applied to our contemporary issues. And, remember, this parasha follows Shoftim which include the injunction--"Justice, justice shall you pursue!"  What is tzedek, justice, today?



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A Dash of Halakhah
You might recall laws stated earlier in the Torah similar to those in Ki Teitzei. For example, “No animal shall be slaughtered on the same day with its young.” (Leviticus 22:28) or “Do not boil a kid in its mother’s milk” (Leviticus 14:21). There is respect and reverence for the parent-child relationship even among animals. The Talmud goes into more detail about when and where the law of the fallen bird nest applies in Tractate Hullin, chapter 12.

A Dash of Rashi
Why can’t you sow your vineyard with more than one kind of seed or plow with an ox and ass together or wear a garment combining linen and wool? This is called kil’ayim and  a tractate in the Talmud with that name  goes into depth on the subject. Rashi says there need not be a reason for these laws because they are God’s decrees. We obey God’s laws even if we don’t understand them. For those of you who need reasons, you can check other commentators some of whom claim that if seeds are mixed, the distinctions made during Creation would be lost.

A Dash of Commentary
Why the emphasis on a fallen bird’s nest and sparing the mother bird? Because the reward for following the command is a long life. Abravenel says the goal of the law is more than just preventing cruelty to animals but is also concerned with conservation of natural resources. The mother bird can continue to lay eggs in the future. How does Abravenel prove this? He sees that the clauses repeat in reverse order the reward promised for honoring one’s father and mother in the Ten Commandments. For Abravenel and other commentators, this is an intentional allusion to the commandment to honor you father and mother.

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Bird’s Nest Vegetables
Pareve --serves 8 to10

This recipe creates a pastry bird nest, but you can also transform mashed potatoes into a nest. For a brighter nest, try mashing sweet potatoes.
If you’re very talented, you can even sculpt the vegetables to look like a bird and her eggs. That might be beyond the scope of a regular Shabbat dinner, but for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah who has the good fortune of this parasha (the shortest haftarah of the year), it would be a fun side dish.

The photo is a real bird's nest above our outdoor light, not the product of this recipe.

Ingredients  rsz 06 ki teitzei copy

  • 4- 10 oz. packages of frozen patty shells (check to make sure they’re pareve if you’re using them for a meat meal).
  • 2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups broccoli flowerets
  • 8 medium yellow squash or zucchini, cubed
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into julienne strips
  • 2 cups sliced roasted red peppers (Measure 2 cups of fresh peppers before roasting them.  If you use peppers from a jar, approximately 10 oz. can be substituted).
  • 2 cups diced green pepper
  • 2 tsp. marjoram, crushed
  • 6 cups pareve chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup water


  1. Prepare the patty shells according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile in a large skillet or Dutch oven, brown mushrooms in olive oil with garlic.
  3. Add broccoli, squash, carrots, red pepper, green pepper, marjoram and chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
  4. Mix cornstarch with cold water and add to the broth.
  5. Cover and simmer 10 min. Season to taste.
  6. When ready to serve, place the vegetables in the prepared patty shells.

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