The 110 verses of this week’s Torah portion contain an assortment of laws that cover practically every area of human endeavor. Seventy-four separate Mitzvos each with their attendant particular laws are found in this weeks Torah portion of Ki Tetze.
The Mitzvos include those dealing with marriage and family institutions, restoration of lost property, safety codes for buildings, issues related to sexual fidelity and immorality, holiness, vows, slaves, divorce, kindness to the poor, kindness to animals and more.
In this past week’s study of Pirkei Avot, Simon the Tzadik teaches (I:2) that “the world depends upon three things: Torah, avoda (service); & gemilut chassadim (acts of kindness).”
He could have just said “Torah” and that would have covered everything. Maimonides, seeming to sense this, understands the term Torah as “chochma,” wisdom in its broader generic sense, not just as the specific body of teachings contained in our religious tradition. Gemilus chassadim, Maimonides teaches, are representative of the development of the personality; how a person relates to other people is a reflection of their own inner development and achievement. Avoda is understood by Maimonides as the observance of the mitzvot of the Torah, which is an essential attribute of one’s relationship to G-d.
The Torah portion has all of these categories blended together in the presentation of the mitzvot.
The Torah teaches that all areas of human expression and endeavor are essential to human development as are all areas of human experience. Thus all of the Torah’s mitzvot present a system that functions synergistically in one’s quest for a relationship with G-d, and are essential for the balanced harmonious growth of every human being.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)