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Ki Tetze. Chain Effect!

How do your actions affect you?

In our parsha, Rashi speaks about how our actions create a dynamic, a momentum, which lead us on a positive trajectory, or alternatively, in a downward plunge.

In the positive, he explains the sequence of mitzvot: [The mother bird (22:6) – the parapet on the roof (22:8) – mixed species in a vineyard or field (22:9), and in clothing (22:11).]

"When you build a new house: If you keep the mitzva of sending away the mother bird, you will end up building a home and will fulfill the mitzva of building a railing for the roof of your house, for one mitzva drags another (mitzva gorreret mitzva). You will then come to a stage when you will have a vineyard, a field, nice clothes; hence the ordering of these parshiot." (Rashi 22:8)

In contrast – a downward momentum - Rashi explains the law of the Beautiful Captive Woman (21:10), the hated wife (21:15), and the rebellious son (21:18), in the following manner:

“If he marries her [the captive woman], he will end up hating her, as it states afterwards (verse 15) 'When a men has two wives ... one who he hates' and in the end she will bear him a son who will be a rebellious son. This is the reason for the order of parshiot here " (Rashi 21:11)

Rashi suggests that the infatuation with the captive woman, will not produce a good marriage. This beautiful girl is essentially someone who is a foreign woman and will eventually be resented in the home. The Israelite man will love his Jewish wife but not his foreign one. Her children will see their mother’s pain and undesirability, the bad relationship in the family, and will eventually become delinquent.

Rashi is talking here about positive and negative social dynamics. That we can at times generate a positive religious energy where we delight in thickening our Jewish world, as we add mitzva to mitzva, building our society through its homes, and agriculture. Or we can trigger a more toxic dynamic which has the potential to poison family life.

Likewise later in the parsha:

“A man marries a woman and cohabits with her, then he takes an aversion to her (lit. hates her,) and defames her…” Rashi: - One sin leads to another: When he transgresses the prohibition “thou shalt not hate [thy fellow]” (Lev. 19:17), the end will be that he will fall into slander. (22:14)

Rashi’s sees these chain reactions and uses the Mishna in Avot (4:2):

"Ben Azzai said:

Run to do even the slightest mitzva and flee from all sin,

for one mitzva will lead to another mitzva and one sin leads to another sin;

for the reward of a mitzva is a mitzva and the recompense of a sin is sin."

Hirsch comments:

"… You cannot afford to overlook the consequences both seen and unseen of any mitzva. The good that you do will lead to more good, and every act of duty done bears its own reward. The knowledge that you have done the will for your father in heaven will bring you closer to Him; it will enrich your spirit with the happy awareness of having done the right thing, and reinforce your moral capacity for doing good. The converse is true of sin. Do not underestimate the consequences of even the most trivial wrong." (Commentary to Avot)

Actions have consequences. Whether good or bad, an action is not an isolated incident. It has a ripple effect; it unleashes positive or negative forces that shape my personal world and my social environment.

Please discuss:

  • Do you agree with this theory?

  • Have you been in an environment where negative actions generated more negativity or harm?

  • Have you experienced the opposite? – A positive environment in which you feels valued, raised, energized, elevated?

  • What are the implications for all this, especially at this Elul time of year?

Shabbat Shalom!

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