Parshas Ki Seitzei
Moshe's Final Oration to the Jewish People
The parsha of Ki Teitzei contains the second most numerous count of mitzvoth
in the Torah, topped only by the count of mitzvoth in the parsha of Kdoshim
in Chumash Vayikra. The commentators to the Torah discuss why these mitzvoth
that first appear in Ki Teitzei, all of whom are ultimately derived from the
granting of the Torah at Mount Sinai almost forty years earlier, find their
place in the Torah here in Moshe’s final oration to the Jewish people.
Their approach to the issue differs. Some are of the opinion since many of
these mitzvoth are related to war, settling the land, domesticated human
life and the like they appear here because of the impending life altering
change for the Jewish people from a miraculous existence in the desert to a
more natural and normal society living. They were now in their own land with
all of the changes and problems that such a radical shift of circumstances
Others merely say that this is an example of the Talmudic dictum that the
Torah is not bound in its teachings and text to any narrative time line;
there is no chronological order to the Torah. Even though these mitzvoth
appear to us in writing here for the first time in the Torah text, they were
essentially already taught to the Jewish people in the desert long before by
There are other explanations to the placement of these mitzvoth here in our
parsha advanced by many of the great commentators to the Torah. All possible
explanations are valid and they are not mutually exclusive.
If I may be bold enough to add my insight to this matter as well, I would
say as follows: The Jewish people are now about to become a nation and to
establish their own government in the Land of Israel. They will have to
fight many battles, bloody and painful, to establish their right to the Land
of Israel and to establish their sovereignty over the territory that it
They will need an army, a civil government, a judicial system, an economy
and labor force and all of the other necessary trappings that accompany
nation building and establishing a territorial entity and effective
government. In the face of these demands it will be likely that they will
think that they may discard the spiritual yoke of the mitzvoth imposed upon
them at Sinai.
It will be easy to say that mitzvoth were necessary in the Sinai desert
where no other demands on our time, energy and service existed for us. But
now we have more pressing business at hand and therefore the punctilious
observance of mitzvoth is no longer required of us.
Moshe comes in this parsha, in the midst of his valedictory oration to the
Jewish people, to remind them that mitzvoth and Torah are the only effective
guarantee of Jewish success and survival even while engaged in building and
defending Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.
Moshe in effect says to them: “Here are some more mitzvoth that will help
you succeed in building the land and your sovereignty over it.” Moshe’s
message is as germane to our time as it was to the first Jews who arrived en
masse to settle in the Land of Israel thirty-three centuries ago.
Rabbi Berel Wein