Sometimes I don’t know which annoys me more: being engulfed by all the lies and hypocrisy and posturing of the circus that is our never-ending presidential campaign, or having to spend my days contending with the picayune details of increasingly arcane patent laws and random enforcement thereof. OK, it’s really no contest. The campaign “wins,” hands down. I hate details, but I respect them. And this week’s Torah portion has a lot of legal details in it, so how’s that for a segue?
Over the last few weeks, we have gone from the top of the mountain (Sinai, get it?) down to earth, setting up the framework of authority in the community. Now we get even more deeply into the nitty gritty of laws dealing with situations that would be familiar to ancient Israelites and, in many cases, to us today. This concerns all the little details and standards that will enable the Israelites to live together as a compassionate community.
According to Maimonides, Ki Tetze contains 72 mitzvot(commandments, laws). You can see many of these laws as answers to question that might actually have come up. How, specifically, are the Israelites supposed to respond in a way that is consistent with the broader laws they’ve been given? In what way is a soldier supposed to treat a captive woman he wants for a wife? When a man has two wives, and the firstborn is a son of the”hated” wife (note that it’s a given that one wife will be loved less), will the firstborn’s rights be protected? What does one do with a really, really rebellious son? Would the public display of the head of an executed noble on London Bridge be in accordance with the Torah? Are vows encouraged? Is “finders, keepers, losers weepers” in accordance with the Torah? Can a man wrongly accuse his wife with impunity, of adultery or not having been a virgin? How is rape punished? Can a man remarry his divorced wife? How ethical do you have to be in business dealings what if you use honest weights and measures, but pay employees late? How is a military camp to be kept ritually and physically clean? Are children to suffer because of the sins of their parents, and the reverse? Do you take eggs out of a nest with the mother bird still there? If you forget some sheaves in your field, do you go back to get it or leave it for the poor? And so on. Other laws are of the “just do it, no questions” type, like the fringes (tzitzit) on a four-cornered garment or the prohibition against clothing of wool mixed with linen.
At the end of the portion, the Israelites are commanded to remember how Amalek ambushed their weakened rear guard and did not fear the Lord. With that, we step back again for a larger historical and spiritual perspective, as we’ll see next week.
BUSINESS ETHICS JOKES
“Johnny,” said his teacher, “if coal is selling at $6 a ton and you pay your dealer $24 how many tons will he bring you?”
“A little over three tons, ma’am,” said Johnny promptly.
“Why, Johnny, that isn’t right,” said the teacher.
“No, ma’am, I know it ain’t,” said Johnny, “but they all do it.”
SOME SHORT JOKES LOST AND FOUND
“I ain’t losing any faith in human nature,” said Uncle Eben, “but I kain’t he’p noticin’ dat dere’s allus a heap mo’ ahticles advertised ‘Lost’ dan dar is ‘Found.'”
“What were you in for?” asked the friend.
“I found a horse.”
“Found a horse? Nonsense! They wouldn’t jug you for finding a horse.”
“Well, but you see I found him before the owner lost him.”
“Party that lost purse containing twenty dollars need worry no longer—it has been found.”—Brooklyn Life.
A lawyer having offices in a large office building recently lost a cuff-link, one of a pair that he greatly prized. Being absolutely certain that he had dropped the link somewhere in the building he posted this notice:
“Lost. A gold cuff-link. The owner, William Ward, will deeply appreciate its immediate return.”
That afternoon, on passing the door whereon this notice was posted, what were the feelings of the lawyer to observe that appended thereto were these lines:
“The finder of the missing cuff-link would deem it a great favor if the owner would kindly lose the other link.”
Two kids are talking to each other. One says, “I’m really worried. My dad works twelve hours a day to give me a nice home and good food. My mom spends the whole day cleaning and cooking for me. I’m worried sick!”
The other kid says, “What have you got to worry about? Sounds to me like you’ve got it made!”
The first kid says, “What if they try to escape?”
A four-year-old boy and his father went to the beach. There was a dead seagull lying on the sand. The boy asked his father, “Dad, what happened to the birdie?”
His dad told him, “Son, the bird died and went to heaven.”
Then the boy asked, ‘”And God threw him back down?”
In the Baker’s Shop
An irate woman burst into the baker’s shop and said, “I sent my son in for two pounds of cookies this morning, but when I weighed them there was only one pound. I suggest that you check your scales.”
The baker looked at her calmly for a moment or two and then replied, “Ma’am, I suggest you weigh your son.”
STUPID LOCAL LAWS
In Zion, Ill., it is illegal for anyone to give lighted cigars to dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals kept as pets.
In Carmel, N.Y., a man can’t go outside while wearing a jacket and pants that do not match.
In St. Louis, it’s illegal to sit on the curb of any city street and drink beer from a bucket. [Bet I know where that one came from! IGP]
In Baltimore, it’s illegal to throw bales of hay from a second-story window within the city limits. It’s also illegal to take a lion to the movies.
In New York, it is against the law to throw a ball at someone’s head for fun. [But if you actually want to hurt him, it’s OK.]
The state of Washington has passed a law stating it is illegal, I repeat, illegal, to paint polka dots on the American flag.
In order for a pickle to officially be considered a pickle in Connecticut, it must bounce. [I’ve never bounced a pickle. Jello cubes in the high school cafeteria, yes, but pickles, no. IGP]
And if any retirees from the circus are thinking about settling down and farming in NC, they are forewarned right here and now that it is against the law in this state to use elephants to plow cotton fields!
It is illegal to take more than 2 baths a month within Boston confines.
Indiana: Back in 1924, a monkey was convicted in South Bend of the crime of smoking a cigarette and sentenced to pay a 25 dollar fine and the trial costs. [The MONKEY was sentenced and had to pay?! IGP]
Oklahoma: Harthahorne City Ordinance, Section 363, states that it shall be unlawful to put any hypnotized person in a display window. [I wonder what the story behind that one is. IGP]
In Gary, Ind., persons are prohibited from attending a movie house or other theater and from riding a public streetcar within four hours of eating garlic.
In Miami, it’s illegal for men to be seen publicly in any kind of strapless gown.
In Nicholas County, W. Va., no member of the clergy is allowed to tell jokes or humorous stories from the pulpit during a church service. [OH, C’MON! IGP]
In Kentucky, “No female shall appear in a bathing suit on any highway within this state unless she be escorted by at least two officers or unless she be armed with a club”
An amendment to the above legislation: “The provisions of this statute shall not apply to females weighing less than 90 pounds nor exceeding 200 pounds, nor shall it apply to female horses.”