Parshat Ki Teitzei was my Bar Mitzvah parsha, so it’s very close to my heart. I read the first and seventh aliyahs, and I have been privileged to read each of them again several times in the intervening years.
This parsha contains more mitzvahs than any other parsha, about 1/8th of the mitzvahs in the entire Torah, encompassing many different categories. Sefer Devarim as a whole serves as the blueprint for how to build and ethical, moral society, and the mitzvahs that stand out to me this year are the ones that outline interpersonal relationships. The Torah enjoins us to build fences on our roofs and patios to stop people from falling, to take great effort and return lost objects to their owners, to help our neighbors when their animals fall down, to not charge interest on loans or take excessive collateral, to pay our workers on time, and to not delay rendering a judgment or perverting justice to favor one party over another. If we forget a sheaf of wheat when harvesting, we must leave it behind for the poor, the orphans and widows.
All of these mitzvahs sound great, they tell us to treat each other kindly, but what does this have to go with Hashem? Do we really need these commandments explicitly stated to us? Couldn’t we figure these out for ourselves?
The main way that we show our Emunah, our faith in Hashem is how we conduct business and treat other people. Do we treat each other fairly and compassionately, showing care and concern for each other, or are we always striving to get ahead and take advantage of people, such as using false weights and measures to gain an illicit advantage?
R’ Moshe Feinstein explains that when a person is dishonest in his business practices, he indicates that his belief in Hashem is deficient. After all, if he truly believed in Hashem, he would rest assured that Hashem would give him all the money that he needed and would not resort to deceit. The Torah teaches us that the underlying beliefs that lead to idol worship and dishonesty are actually identical. When a person is dishonest, he must realize that it says something about his trust in Hashem.
As Rabbi Mark Wildes mentioned in his 40 Day Challenge this morning, deep down, we have an innate desire to behave properly and treat people correctly, which often gets tainted and skewed because we are human and thus susceptible to outside influences. By observing these mitzvahs of honesty and compassion, we are emulating Hashem and connecting our neshama back to the One True Source, healing and restoring our thoughts and correcting our behavior, and what better time to implement these behaviors than the month of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashanah?