The secret to receiving blessing is knowing how to let go. If there is one dominant theme that emerges from the many mitzvot of chapter 24, it is that.

Nechama Leibowitz points out that it’s hard to understand the primary purpose of the mitzvot at the end of the chapter as giving charity. The commandment to leave over small portions of the grape and olives that you harvest, and not to pick up sheaves that are dropped, yield only miniscule donations. On the other hand, they drive home a powerful message of the need to limit our ownership for the benefits of the underprivileged other. In that way, they engender a mindset not of charity, the loving benevolent giving of that which is mine, but tzedaka, the socially just redistribution of wealth which comes from accepting the limits of my ownership , from being willing to let go of what I might think of as “mine”.

The mitzvot  concerning loans convey the same message. The dignity of the poor supersedes my claims of ownership, so that I am prohibited from entering the house of the borrower and reclaiming what I am owed, and I am commanded to return a loan guarantee when it is needed. If this letting go is hard, we are to remember how God let us go from Egypt. As representative of the poor, the orphan, the widow, God now asks us to return the favor.

The mitzvah of divorce which opens the chapter introduces this theme. When you think biblically, the Catholic opposition to divorce makes a lot of sense. If marriage is a holy covenant in which man and woman become ‘as one flesh’- how can a person be allowed to break that covenant and dissolve a marriage? But what the Torah teaches us in chapter 24 is that in some circumstances, dignity, and perhaps even love, supersede any other claims, and require letting go.