Captives of War

21:10 Moses continued, “If1 you go out of the land to wage an optional war against your enemies, and God, your God, delivers your enemy into your hands, and, along with the captives and spoils of war,2you take the enemy’s own captives, among which are members of the seven Canaanite nations, whom you would be commanded to kill had you found them in the Land of Israel,3 you may, in this case, allow them to live.4

11 If you see a woman with beautiful facial features—even a married one—among the captives, and you desire her, and you want to take her for yourself as a wife, you may do so, but only after first doing the following:

12 Firstly, you must bring her into your home, and she must shave her head and let her nails grow long, in order that she look repulsive.

13 Secondly, although her people probably had her dress seductively in order to lure you and your fellow soldiers into pursuing her instead of concentrating on the battle, she must remove the seductive garment she is wearing in her captivity from upon herself and instead don ordinary clothing. Thirdly, she must remain in your house—as opposed to in the separate quarters provided for women5—such that you confront her constantly, ad nauseam, and fourthly,she must be allowed to weep freely for her father and her mother for a full month. All these measures are intended to make her seem repulsive to you, so as to discourage you from marrying her, and to make your Jewish wife seem attractive in comparison.

After doing all that, if you still desire the captured woman and she agrees to convert,6 you may go to her and have marital relations with her, and she will thereby become a wife for you.

Even though such a marriage is permitted, it is only a concession to the soldier’s base drives, which would compel him to marry the captive woman in any event. Nonetheless, be forewarned that since this union is not auspicious, the soldier will eventually despise this wife, and that furthermore, the children born from this union will be a source of grief.7

14 When, as predicted,you eventually do not desire her any longer and want to be rid of her, you must divorce her and send her away to live on her own. You may not sell her for money as a slave, nor may you keep her for yourself as a servant instead of as a wife, since you have afflicted her by not keeping her as your wife; therefore, you must treat her considerately.

The Inheritance of the Firstborn

15 If a man has two wives—one beloved and the other despised—and they both bear him sons, the beloved one and the despised one, and the firstborn son is from the despised wife,

16 despite this, on the day that he, i.e.,the husband, bequeaths his estate to his sons, he will not be able—i.e., allowed—to give the son of the beloved wife birthright precedence over the son of the despised wife, i.e., a double portion of his inheritance—for8 God has explicitly decreed that the firstborn son receive a double portion of his father’s inheritance.

17 Rather, the fathermust acknowledge the primogeniture of the firstborn—even if the firstborn happens to be the son of the despised wife—by giving him a double share of all that he possesses, equal to twice the share that each of the other sons receives. The firstborn only receives a double share of his father’s realized estate on the date of the latter’s death, and not of any assets due to accrue to the father’s estate later. The firstborn is granted the double share because he is the first product of his father’s seminal strength; the birthright entitlement is therefore his.

The Wayward Son

18 If a man has a son who is at least thirteen years old and who is also in the initial stages of puberty,9and that son is wayward and rebellious, in that he has been witnessed stealing money, with which he then bought and consumed at least 50 maneh [200 g or 7 oz.] of meat and half a log [172 ml or 5.8 oz.] of wine, thereby not obeying his father or his mother who have told him not to do this—his parents may chasten him by bringing him before a local court comprising three judges who, based on the testimony of the witnesses, will whip him. If he does not heed his parents again, and, after being warned a second time, is witnessed doing the same thing, then it is clear that he has internalized this disobedient behavior and will inevitably fall into a downward spiral of degeneracy, eventually becoming a lethal menace to society. This being the case, it is better that his life be ended before he has incurred this guilt. Therefore,

19 his father and his mother must seize him and bring him out to the elders of his city and to the gate of his place, i.e., to the district court of 23 judges.10

20 They must say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is wayward and rebellious. He does not obey us: he is a persistent thief, glutton, and guzzler.’

21 If the court determines that the boy is still in the initial stages of puberty and then convicts him on the testimony of the witnesses, the latter must attempt to execute him as described above,11 and as above, if they fail, all the men of his city must pelt him to death with stones until he dies. So must you eliminate this evil from your midst. The court must announce the crime for which this boy is being executed so all Israel will hear about what happened and be afraid to incur similar guilt.

The procedures for designating, convicting, or executing someone as a wayward and rebellious son are not applied to a daughter.12

In order to emphasize the fact were such a wayward son not to be executed, he would indeed eventually degenerate into more destructive behavior, for which he would incur the death penalty, I will now teach you some additional details of the laws of execution:

Gibbeting after Stoning

Second Reading 22 If a man commits a sin for which he is sentenced to death by stoning, and he is indeed put to death in this manner, you must afterward suspend him, i.e., his corpse, on a wooden pole by tying him to it.

23 But you must not leave his body hanging on the pole overnight. Rather, you must bury him on that same day, for showing disrespect for a human corpse by leaving it hanging overnight is an affront to God, for the human form reflects the Divine image.13Therefore, you must not defile your land, which God, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, by such behavior.

Returning Lost Items

22:1 You have been taught14 that you must return a lost item to its owner, even to an enemy. I will now teach you the other details of this law: You must not see your brother Israelite’s ox or sheep straying and ignore them. Rather, you must return them to your brother. The exceptions to this rule are: (a) if a priest sees a stray animal in a cemetery, since he may not defile himself by entering a cemetery;15 (b) if a distinguished sage sees a stray animal, since he may not degrade himself by leading an animal around in public; and (c) if the loss of potential income incurred by returning the lost animal is greater than the animal’s monetary worth.16

2 But if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know who he is, you must bring it into your house. It must remain with you until your brother seeks it out and you then ascertain that it in fact belongs to the person claiming it, whereupon you must return it to him. If the animal can be put to work in the meantime in order to offset the cost of taking care of it, then you may do so. If it cannot be put to work and the cost of taking care of it will exceed is worth, you may sell it and give the owner the money when he claims his animal.

3 So must you do with his donkey, and so must you do with his garment, and so must you do with any lost article of your brother that he has lost and that you have found. You cannot ignore it, for God has commanded you not to.17


4 Similarly, you have been taught18 that you must help someone unload his donkey when the donkey is crouching under its load, even if that person is your enemy. Furthermore, you must not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen under its load on the road and ignore them. Rather, once the load has been removed and the animal is back on its feet, you should pick up the load together with him and help him put it back on the animal. If, however, the owner tries to take advantage of your obligation to help him by making you load the animal by yourself, you are exempt from doing so.

Here, too,19 the exceptions to this rule are: (a) if a priest sees an animal fallen under its load in a cemetery, since he may not defile himself by entering a cemetery; (b) if a distinguished sage sees a struggling animal, since he may not degrade himself by loading or unloading an animal in public; and (c) if the loss of potential income incurred by loading the animal is greater than the animal’s monetary worth.20


5 A man’s attire must not be worn by a woman in order to enable her to fraternize with men, for a woman would seek to do this only in order to entice the men into adultery. Similarly, a man may not wear a woman’s garment in order to enable him to fraternize with women, for a man would seek to do this only in order to entice the women into adultery. For whoever does these things—i.e., dresses in ways that lead to adultery—is an abomination to God, your God. The prohibition against men dressing like women also includes removing the hair from around the reproductive organ and from the armpits.

Sending Away a Mother Bird

6 If you happen upon a bird’s nest on the road, on any tree, or on the ground, and inside it are chicks or eggs that you would like to take for yourself, then, if the mother is brooding upon the chicks or upon the eggs, you must not takethe mother together with her young while she is sitting upon the young.21

7 Rather, you must first send away the mother once, and then you may take the young for yourself, and you may take the mother, too, if she returns,22 in order that it should go well for you, and that you should live long.23

This law applies only to bird nests that you ‘happen upon,’ but not to nests that are located on your own property; you may take your own birds and/or their young without first sending the mother away.

From the fact that the Torah promises you a good, long life in reward for fulfilling such a simple commandment, which entails no monetary loss, you may deduce that this is the case all the more so for commandments that require greater effort or expense.

To illustrate the prosperity you will merit in reward for fulfilling this commandment, I will now describes a commandment that devolves on someone who acquires or builds a new house.

Furthermore, whenever you fulfill one of God’s commandments, He rewards you with the opportunity to fulfill another, similar commandment. In this case, since you sent away the mother bird as an act of compassion for others in the course of doing something for your own benefit (taking the young), you will be granted another opportunity to perform an act of compassion in the course of doing something for your own benefit: when you build yourself a house, you must erect a parapet on its roof to keep others from endangering themselves, as follows.24

The Parapet

Third Reading 8 When you build a new house, you must make a parapet for your roof, in order that you not cause blood to be shed in your house by not preventing one who falls from falling off the roof. True, if someone falls to his death, it indicates retroactively that he was destined to be punished for some crime he had committed. Nonetheless, you should try to avoid such an occurrence on your property, for the fact that such a tragedy occurs specifically on your property rather than elsewhere indicates that you, too, are in some way culpable for some wrongdoing.

Mixing Species

9 As a further reward for fulfilling the commandment to send away the mother bird, you will also be blessed with vineyards and fields;25 this will obligate you in the following commandments: You have already been taught26 that you must not sow your field with a mixture of two or more species of grain or vegetables. In addition, you must not sow your vineyard together with a mixture of two or more species of grains or vegetables, lest the increase—both the seed that you sow and the yield of the vineyard—become ipso facto forbidden and therefore out of bounds. If the field has not yet been sown with grapes (and thus is not yet a vineyard), this prohibition is transgressed only if you sow two species of grain or vegetable together with grape seeds, all at once.27

10 As you have been taught,28 you must not crossbreed your livestock. As an additional precaution, you must not even plow a field simultaneously with both an ox and a donkey, or for that matter, with any two types of animals. Similarly, you must not drive them together if they are yoked together in order to carry a load.

11 As a further reward for fulfilling the commandment to send away the mother bird, you will be blessed with fine clothing;29 this will obligate you in the following commandment: As you have been taught,30 you must not wear a pressed, woven, or twisted (sha’atnez) mixture of wool and linen together.

12 The exception to this is that, as you have been taught,31you must make yourself twisted threads and hang them as tassels on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself. Each tassel is made of four threads, one of which, if properly dyed, must be woolen; such tassels may be attached even to linen garments.32

Just as doing a good deed leads to the opportunity to perform further good deeds, transgressing a commandment leads to the temptation to transgress further commandments, as the following laws illustrate:

Allegations of Pretended Chastity

13 If a man takes a wife, has marital relations with her, and hates her, thereby transgressing the prohibition against hating one’s fellow Jew,33

14 and then accuses her of improper conduct and slanders her, thereby transgressing the commandment not to slander one’s fellow Jew,34saying in her presence to the judges of the court—since a plaintiff may only state his case to the judge in the presence of the defendant—‘I took this woman as my wife, and when I approached her through marital relations, I did not find any evidence of virginity for her, and in fact, after looking into the matter, I found witnesses who can testify that she had relations with another man after I betrothed her, and that she was warned beforehand that these relations were forbidden,

15 the girl’s father and her mother must, if they can, obtain evidence of the girl’s virginity, that is, witnesses who can confute the testimony of the husband’s witnesses, and bring them to the elders of the city (i.e., the judges) at the gate (i.e., the court). The duty to prove the girl’s innocence devolves upon her parents, for they are deemed culpable for having produced and raised a child whose conduct can be at all suspect.35

16 Even though both parents come to the court, only the girl’s father must say to the elders (for it is considered an affront to the mother’s dignity to have her speak publicly on her husband’s behalf in his presence), ‘I gave my daughter to this man as a wife, and he hated her,

17 and behold, he accused her of improper conduct, saying to me, “I did not find evidence of your daughter’s virginity.” But here is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity!’ And the parents must display their evidence, making their case as figuratively spotless as a white sheet before the elders of the city. The court must examine the testimony of the witnesses of both the husband’s and the wife’s parents, and decide which is to be believed.

18 If they decide in favor of the wife, the elders of that city must take the man—the husband—and chasten him by administering lashes to him.

19 They must furthermore fine him 100 shekels ofsilver because he slandered a Jewish virgin, and he must give it to the girl’s father, since, as above, it was her parents who were chiefly implicated in his accusation. She must continue to be his wife; he may not send her away (i.e., divorce her) as long as he lives, even should he want to.36

20 If, on the other hand, this matter was true, andindeed, no evidence of the girl’s virginity was found, but the testimony of the husband’s witnesses was accepted,

21 they must take the girl out to the entrance of her father’s house, as if saying to her parents, ‘see what sort of daughter you have reared!’ The witnesses must then attempt to kill her in the presence of all the men of her city by the usual stoning procedure:37 first by pushing her off an elevation twice her height; if the fall does not kill her, by then casting a heavy stone on her chest; if this, too, fails, the populace must pelt her with stones. She must die for she did a disgraceful thing in Israel, committing adultery against her betrothed husband while still living in her father’s house. So must you eliminate this evil from your midst.


22 As you have been taught, adultery is forbidden,38 and if a man is found fornicating with a married woman, and they were both forewarned and then witnessed in the act, both of them must be tried by the court and put to death by strangulation39—the man who fornicated with the woman as well as the woman. But this is true only if they engaged in actual coitus, for only in this way are both parties equally guilty of the pleasure they took in the act. By executing them, you will eliminate this evil from Israel. The court must execute the adulteress without delay even if she is pregnant. A further party who commits adultery with the adulteress after she has been sentenced is also guilty of adultery and is executed.

23 However, you have also been taught40 that if the adulteress is the daughter of a priest, she is executed by burning rather than by strangulation. There is another case where the punishment for adultery is not strangulation: If there is a virgin girl betrothed41to a man, and another man finds her in the city and fornicates with her,

24 you must take them both to the gate (i.e., the court) of that city, and if it can be proven that they were warned and that the crime was witnessed, and the court convicts them,they must be put to death by stoning:42 by pushing them (separately) off an elevation twice their height; failing that, by casting a heavy stone on their chests; failing that, you (the populace) must pelt them with stones. Thus they must die: the girl, because she did not cry out for help—for since the crime occurred in the city, she would have been heard had she cried out—and she may therefore be construed to have consented to the crime; and the man, because he violated his neighbor’s wife.43By executing them, you will eliminate this evil from your midst.

The girl, besides evincing her consent by not having cried out, is also at fault because she exposed herself to danger by venturing outside in lonely, unfrequented areas.

25 But if a man finds the betrothed girl in the field, and the man overpowers her and fornicates with her, then, if it can be proven in court that the assailant was warned and the crime was witnessed, and the court convicts him, only the man who fornicated with her must be put to death.

26 In this case, you must take no punitive action against the girl. The girl presumably did not commit adultery, which is a sin deserving of death, for just as a man rises up against his fellow and murders him, so is this case,

27 because he found her in the field: the betrothed girl may be presumed to have cried out, but there was no one to rescue her.

The cases of murder and violation of a betrothed woman share additional similarities, as well: in both cases, if a person is given the choice to commit the sin or be killed, he must surrender his life rather than commit the crime; and in both cases, it is permissible to prevent the crime by killing the assailant.


28 You have been taught44 that if a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed, he must marry her. Similarly, if a man finds a virgin girl who was not betrothed, but in this case does not seduce her but seizes her and fornicates with her, and they are discovered, i.e., witnessed,

29 then the man who fornicated with her must give fifty shekels of silver to the girl’s father, and, if she and her father so desire, he must marry her: she must become his wife because he violated her. He may not send her away (i.e., divorce her) without cause as long as he lives.45

Forbidden Marriages

23:1 You have been taught46 that you may not fornicate with your father’s wife, even if she is not your mother. Furthermore, a man may not take his father’s wife in marriage (if, for example, the father had died or divorced the step-mother), and if he does, the marriage has no legal validity.

You have been taught47 that a man may not fornicate with his father’s sister-in-law. You will soon be taught48 that if a married man dies childless, his brother is required to either marry the widow or release her formally from this obligation to marry him. If a person’s paternal uncle had died and his widowed aunt is waiting for his father to either marry her or to release her from her obligation to marry him, the son’s fornication with her (still) falls under the prohibition against fornication with one’s father’s sister-in-law. Besides this, however, fornication with one’s aunt in this specific situation is subject to an additional prohibition (which obligates the transgressor to offer up a second, additional sin-offering if he commits the crime unintentionally49): that one may not figuratively uncover the corner of his father’s cloak, i.e., fornicate with his sister-in-law who is waiting for him to either marry her or release her.

Restrictions on Conversion and Marriage

2 A Jewish man with injured testicles or whose reproductive organ is cut such that his reproductive seed oozes rather than ejaculates, thus disabling him from having children naturally, may not enter the assembly of God by marrying a born Jewess. He may, however, marry a convert or a freed bondwoman.50

3 A bastard is defined as someone born of any forbidden union punishable by excision (when committed without having been witnessed and therefore not subject to being tried in court),51 except union with a menstruant.52 Such a bastard may not enter the assembly of God by marrying a legitimate born Jew. A bastard may, however, marry another bastard or a convert.53Even the tenth generation descendant of a bastard, and in fact all his or her descendants for all time, may not enter the assembly of God.

4 As you know, Ammon and Moab were the bastard sons of Lot.54 Thus, in accordance with the above rule, a male Ammonite or Moabite, even if he converts to Judaism, may not enter the assembly of God by marrying a born Jewess. Even the tenth generation male descendant of the Ammonite or Moabite convert, and in fact all his male descendants for all time may never enter the assembly of God,

5 because, in addition, the Ammonites and Moabites did not greet you with bread and water when you were exhausted from traveling through the desert55after you left Egypt, and because the people of Moab hired Balaam the son of Beor from Petor in Aram Naharaim against you, to curse you,56 and themselves enticed you into sinning by his wicked counsel at Shitim.57

6 But God, your God, did not want to listen to Balaam, so God, your God, transformed the curse into a blessing for you,58 because God, your God, loves you.

7 You must not ever look out for their welfare or their good, all your days. Even though you must otherwise allow escaped slaves to seek asylum in your land,59 you may not grant asylum to escaped Ammonite or Moabite slaves.

Fourth Reading 8 In contrast, you must not similarly despise an Edomite by not allowing him to ever marry into your fold—even though the Edomites were hostile to you during your desert trek60for, by virtue of being a descendant of Jacob’s brother Esau,61he is your brother. Likewise, you must not similarly despise an Egyptian by not allowing him to ever marry into your fold—even though the Egyptians murdered your children—for you were a sojourner in his land and were sustained there when there was a famine in your own land.

9 Rather, children who are born to Edomites of Egyptiansin the third generation after their conversion may enter the assembly of God by marrying born Jews.

Thus you see that causing someone to sin (as the Moabites did to you) is more harmful than actual violence (which the Edomites sought to inflict upon you) or murder (which the Egyptians perpetrated against you); therefore, those guilty of the first crime are to be excluded from the Jewish people forever, whereas those guilty of the second and third are to be excluded only for two generations.

Converts from other nations, however, as well as female Ammonite and Moabite converts,62 may marry born Jews immediately upon conversion.

Purity of the Army Camp

10 Although you must of course be careful at all times to behave properly, when you go forth as a military camp against your enemies, you must be especially wary of doing any evil thing, for, as you know,63 the accusing angel (Satan) prosecutes against people particularly when they enter into a dangerous situation.

11 As you know,64 if a man has a seminal emission, he must remain outside the inner two camps of your traveling formation65 until purifying himself. You must maintain similar standards of ritual purity in your military camp. Thus, if there be among you in your military camp a man who becomes ritually defiled due to a nocturnal (or diurnal) seminal emission, he must go outside the camp. He must not re-enter the camp until he purifies himself according to the prescribed procedure:66

12 During the day—towards evening at the latest—he must immerse himself in the water of a mikveh, and then, when the sun sets and he is thereby rendered ritually pure, he may re-enter the camp.

13 Just as you must maintain the highest standards of ritual purity in your military camp, so must you maintain proper hygienic standards, as well. Thus, just as you have latrines outside the camps of your traveling formation,67 you must similarly have a designated place outside the military camp, so that you can go out there to use it as a latrine.

14 Furthermore, you must keep a stake on your person in addition to your weapons, and when you sit down outside to relieve yourself, you must dig with it, and thus, rather than just walking away, you must turn back and cover your excrement.

15 For God, your God, accompanies you in the midst of your military camp, to rescue you and to deliver your enemies before you.Therefore, your camp must be kept holy, so that He not see anything unseemly in you and because of that turn away, so to speak, from you, withdrawing His protection.


16 You may not hand over a Jewish slave to his non-Jewish master if he has fled from him and seeks refuge with you from his master. Similarly,when a non-Jewish68 slave flees from his Jewish master living outside the Land of Israel and seeks refuge with you inside the Land of Israel, you may not hand over such a slave to his master if he seeks refuge with you from his master. In both these cases, the slave, by fleeing his master, has demonstrated that he seeks to free himself from his non-holy milieu (i.e., either the non-Jewish master or the non-Jewish land); this being the case, you must not return him to the negative influences of such an environment.

17 Rather, he must be allowed to reside among you wherever he chooses within any of your cities, where it is good for him. The court must instruct his master, if Jewish, to free him, thus making him a convert to Judaism, and his value on the slave market becomes a debt that he must pay to his former master when he is able to. Just as you must not taunt an ordinary convert about his past,69 you must also not taunt this former slave, who is now a convert.

However, if a non-Jewish slave flees from his Jewish master who lives inside the Land of Israel, you may return him to him.


18 As you have been taught,70 there must be no prostitute among the daughters of Israel, and there must be no male prostitute, available for homosexual relations, among the sons of Israel.

Similarly, a Jewish woman may not marry a non-Jewish bondman, nor may a Jewish man marry a non-Jewish bondwoman. Even though these non-Jewish bondservants are obligated to observe some commandments,71 they are nevertheless not full Jews; as such, no marriage tie can exist between them and full Jews. Thus, any fornication between Jews and them is akin to prostitution.

19 If, nevertheless, someone does work as a prostitute, or if there is a non-Jewish prostitute among you, you may not bring what was paid as a prostitute’s fee as a sacrifice. Nor may you bring what was paid asthe price of a dog as a sacrifice. Neither of these may be brought to the House of God, your God, (i.e., the Tabernacle or the Temple) in order to fulfill any sacrificial vow, because both of them are an abomination to God, your God—the prostitute’s fee because it is the result of prostitution, and the price of a dog because dogs are prone to brazenness and often inflict damage.72

Even if the form of the original payment was changed—for example, if the prostitute was paid with grapes, which were then made into wine; or she was paid with olives, which were then pressed into oil, etc.—the resultant product is still forbidden to be offered up.


20 As you have been taught,73 you may not take interest on loans. In addition, when you pay back a loan, you must not pay interest to your brother, whether it be interest on money, interest on food, or interest on any other item on which interest is normallytaken when given as a loan.

21 You may however, pay interest to a gentile on a loan you took from him. But you must not pay interest to your brother, in order that God, your God, bless you in all your endeavors on the land that you are entering in order to possess.

Thus, someone who pays interest to a fellow Jew transgresses three commandments: the two statements of the restrictive commandment in these two verses and the one active commandment (paying interest only to gentiles) in the second verse.

Sacrificial Vows

22 When you make a vow to offer up a sacrifice to God, your God, you must not delay in fulfilling it by letting three pilgrim festivals pass before offering up the sacrifice, for God, your God, will demand it of you, and it will be counted as a sin for you.

23 On the other hand, if you refrain from making sacrificial vows to begin with, you will not accrue any sin. So be careful not to make sacrificial vows that you are not reasonably sure you will be able to fulfill.

24 In addition to being subject to a restrictive commandment—not delaying the fulfillment of a vow—this rule is also subject to an active commandment: Observe and do whatever issues from your lips exactly as you have vowed to God, your God. The same applies to a sacrificial dedication74that you have uttered with your mouth.

Workers’ Perquisites

Fifth Reading 25 If you have been hired as a harvester and, in this capacity, you enter your neighbor’s vineyard during the harvest season, you may eat as many grapes as you desire, but only until you are sated, but you may not put anyinto your container to eat later. However, if you are an employee not working specifically at harvesting, you are not allowed this privilege.

26 Similarly, if you have been hired as a harvester and, in this capacity, you enter your neighbor’s field of standing grain during the harvest season, you may pick the ears of grain manually in order to eat the kernels, but you may not lift a sickle upon your neighbor’s standing grain to cut any of it for yourself

This perquisite is limited to situations in which (a) you are working with vegetative product (as opposed to milk, cheese, etc.) and (b) the produce has not been processed to the point that it has become liable to all the commandments that (otherwise) devolve upon it before it may be eaten (e.g., tithing75 in the case of grapes grown for eating, or setting aside the first of the dough76 in the case of grain grown to be made into bread).77 If you are working with vegetative produce that is not subject to any specific commandments before being eaten, you may eat from it only until it has reached similar stages in its processing.78

Despite your employer’s obligation to allow you eat as you work, he is not punished if he prevents you from doing so.79


24:1 If a man takes a wife and has marital relations with her, and she becomes unfavorable to him because he discovers in her an unseemly moral matter, he should write her a bill of divorce and place it into her hand, and thus send her away from his house.

2 If, after she leaves his house, she goes and marries another man without having mended her ways, and this man marries her despite her persistent, unseemly moral behavior,

3 the latter husband will eventually either come to hate her and write her, too, a bill of divorce, place it into her hand, and thus send her away from his house or, if he does not do so, the latter husband who took her as a wife will die because of her.

4 In such a case—or in the case of any divorced woman who marries a second husband who then either divorces her or dies—her first husband, who had sent her away, may not take her again as his wife, since she was defiled to him by having relations with someone else in the interim, for that is an abomination before God. Therefore, you must not thereby bring sin upon the land that God, your God, is giving you as an inheritance.

However, a divorced woman may remarry her original husband if she did not have relations with anyone else after having divorced him.

Army Exemptions

Sixth Reading 5 When a man takes a new wife, he must not go out as a solider in the army, nor must he be obligated to do anything for it in a civil capacity, such as supplying water or food, or repairing roads.80

He must remain exempt from army duty in order to attend to his home affairs for one year and gladden his wife whom he has taken. This law applies only if the man is marrying this woman for the first time, even if she was married to someone else before, but not if he is remarrying his ex-wife.

Similarly, someone who has begun to live in a new house but has not yet lived in it for a full year, as well as someone has begun to eat the fourth-year fruits of his recently planted vineyard (these being the first fruits permitted to be eaten) but that year is not yet over,81 is also exempt from all army service until the end of these respective years.

Securities on Loans

6 When a loan comes due and the borrower does not have the means to repay it, the lender may take him to court and demand a collateral against the unpaid loan, but he must not take anything essential to the debtor’s life or livelihood, such as the latter’s lower or upper millstone, as collateral, because by doing so, he is in effect taking the life of his debtor as collateral—since the debtor will starve to death if he cannot grind grain to bake bread.


7 As you have been taught,82 if a man or woman kidnaps any person from among his brothers, of the Israelites, and then enslaves him and finally sells him, that thief must be put to death by strangulation by the court, provided that the culprit was warned prior to the kidnapping, enslavement, and sale, and was witnessed doing all three. If, however, any of these conditions is not met, the culprit is not liable to the death penalty.83 You must, by executing the culprit according to due process of law, eliminate the evil of kidnapping from your midst.


8 As you have been taught,84 certain types of dermal lesions, which exhibit specific secondary symptoms, are diagnosed as the condition termed tzara’at, which renders someone afflicted with it ritually defiled and thus not allowed to enter the camp.85 Regarding the lesion of tzara’at, take care not to pluck out the hairs that constitute its symptoms or to cut away the lesion itself. On the contrary, take care to meticulously safeguard the practice of these laws by studying the Torah’s instructions regarding how to observe them, in order to perform them properly. Only in this way can you take care to act in accordance with all that the Levite priests instruct you, as I have commanded them.

9 But, of course, it is even better to avoid tzara’at altogether, by not engaging in slander. To that end, remember what God, your God, did to my sister Miriam when we were traveling through the desert after you left Egypt: she spoke slanderously against me, and God immediately afflicted her with tzara’at.86

Securities on Loans, continued

10 As you have been taught,87 when a loan comes due and the borrower does not have the means to repay it, the lender may take him to court and demand collateral against the unpaid loan. Similarly, when you demand back something that you loaned your fellow Jew—even something other than money—and he cannot return it to you immediately, you may demand collateral. However,you must not enter his home to take his collateral.


Rather, you must stand outside, and the person from whom you are demanding the return of what you loaned him must bring the collateral to you outside.

12 Also, as you have been taught,88 if he is a poor man, and the only thing in his possession that he can give you as a security collateral is his night clothing, you must not lie down to sleep with his collateralstill in your possession.

13 Rather, you must return the collateral to him by sunset, so that he may lie down to sleep in his garment. Similarly, if he is a night-worker and gives you his daytime clothing as a security, you must return it to him by morning. He will bless you for your consideration, and even if he does not, it will be counted for you as a merit before God, your God.

Employees’ Wages

Seventh Reading 14 As you have been taught,89 you must not pay your employees late. If the employee happens to be poor, paying late is subject to an additional prohibition: You must not withhold the wages of a poor or destitute employee, whether he be one of your brothers, i.e., an Israelite, or one of your converts. This prohibition applies both to his salary and to the fee you owe him for renting his animals or equipment for use in your land. Furthermore, this prohibition also applies to a poor or destitute employee who is one of the resident aliens90 in your cities.

15 Rather, you must give him his wage on his promised day. Even if he is not poor, if he is a night-worker—who is due payment at sunrise91—you must not let the sun set before paying his wage. This doubly so if he is poor, since, because he is poor, he depends upon his wage, as evidenced by the fact that he risks his life to earn it if necessary. Therefore, pay him on time so that he not cry out to God against you. The demerit ofthis sin will be counted against you in any case, but if the employee cries out to God, God will be quicker to administer corrective punishment against you.

Legal Justice

16 Fathers must not be put to death by the court by virtue of their sons’ testimony, nor must sons be put to death by virtue of their fathers’ testimony—and in fact, all first-degree relatives of the defendant are automatically disqualified as legal witnesses.

An adult may be put to death by the court only for his own transgression and not for anyone else’s. Minors, however, are sometimes put to death by the heavenly court for their parents’ transgressions.

Consideration for the Disadvantaged

17 As you have been taught,92 you must not pervert justice. With regard to certain categories of litigants, perverting justice is subject to an additional prohibition: You must not pervert the judgment of a convert or an orphan, for these people are at a distinct psychological disadvantage, making it easier for you to overlook their plight.

Similarly, although you have been taught that it is generally permitted to take collateral against payment for a loan that has come due,93 there is an exception: you must not take a widow’s garment as collateral, for even if she is rich, she is suffering from a psychological disadvantage.

18 If, in obeying these rules, you incur some expense or loss, that is immaterial: You must remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and that God, your God, redeemed you from there on the condition that you obey Him even if doing so seems disadvantageous. I therefore command you to do this thing even though it might sometimes cause you financial loss.

19 As you have been taught,94 when harvesting your crops, you must intentionally leave certain portions of it for the disadvantaged. In addition, when you reap your harvest in your field and forget to gather some grain that is left behind you—such as a sheaf—and the volume of this grain is less than two se’ah (16.5 liters or 15 dry quarts), or even if you forget to reap some of the grain standing in the field in back of you, you must not go back to take it. It must be left for the convert, the orphan, and the widow, in order that God, your God, bless you in all that you do. In contrast, this rule does not apply to grain that is still in front of you as you proceed to harvest your field.

If God blesses you for your unintentionalbeneficence, how much more so will He bless you for your intentional beneficence!

20 Just as when you reap your grain, you must leave the grain in the corner of the field95 and the forgotten grain for the disadvantaged,96 so must you do the same when harvesting your olive grove: When you beat your olive tree in order to harvest its olives, you must not totally remove its glory by picking all its fruit, and you must not go back to pick up what you have forgotten on the groundbehind you; it must be left for the convert, the orphan, and the widow.

21 As you have been taught,97

when you pick the grapes of your vineyard, you must not glean the young grapes growing on the part of the vine not sufficiently developed to have its grapes hanging from either a true stem or ancillary shoots, and you must not go back to pick up what you have forgotten behind you;98it must be left for the convert, the orphan, and the widow.

22 Here, too: if, because of these rules, you incur some monetary loss, this is immaterial: You must remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and that God redeemed you from there on the condition that you obey Him even if doing so seems disadvantageous. I therefore command you to do this thing even though it might sometimes cause you financial loss.

Resolving Disputes

25:1 If a friendly argument arises between people and they take it to court, the court can either propose a compromise between them or render a definitive judgment; in either case, since there is no animosity between the parties, the dispute will end peacefully. If, however, there is a hostile quarrel between people, such thatthey are not interested in a compromise, they should approach the court for a definitive judgment. In such a case, the judges must judge them; even though they know that rendering judgment will only solve the particular lawsuit and not end their quarrel, and even though it is likely that both parties are guilty of exaggerating their claims and in this respect neither is wholly innocent or guilty, they must nonetheless judge the specific lawsuit they have been approached to judge and acquit the innocent party and condemn the guilty party.99


2 As you have been taught,100 the standard corrective punishment for transgressing a passive commandment whose effect cannot be counteracted by performing a correlating active commandment is lashes. This is how the court is to administer lashes: If, as a result of a court case, the guilty party has incurred the penalty of lashes, the judge must have him bend over—not letting him either stand up straight or sit—and have the sheriff flog him, administering one-third of the number of lashes in front of him, i.e., on his chest, and two-thirds on his back, as befits his crime. While lashes are being administered, the judge must recite two verses that I will articulate later.101 The maximum number of lashes

3 the sheriff must administer to himmust be either one less than forty (i.e., 39) or however many it is determined that he can bear, whichever is less.102The sheriff must not exceed these prescribed 39 lashes, lest—by flogging him even once more—he give him what would be considered a much more severe flogging than these 39 prescribed lashes, inasmuch as striking another person (other than when the Torah expressly demands it) is forbidden. Furthermore, if the sheriff administers extra lashes, your brother will be belittled in your eyes, and once he has received his due punishment, you must no longer relate to him as a criminal but once again as your brother—giving all the respect due a fellow human being.

Work Animals

4 You must not muzzle an ox when it is threshing grain in order to prevent it from eating the grain, or in fact prevent any animal working with food from eating some of that food as it works.

Levirate Marriage

5 As you have been taught,103 you must not marry your brother-in-law or sister-in-law. There is, however, an exception to this law. If paternal or full brothers ‘reside’ together, meaning that they are both alive at the same time (as opposed to if the second one had been born after the first one had died), and one of them dies having no son, daughter, or grandchild, neither from his wife nor from any other Jewish woman,104the dead man’s wife will not thereby be automatically free to marry an outsider, that is, anyone other than her brother-in-law. Rather, ideally, her husband’s brother must cohabit with her, thereby taking her as a wife for himself, thus marrying her in levirate marriage.

6 The primary duty to marry the dead man’s wife devolves upon the eldest brother; if the eldest brother prefers not to marry his widowed sister-in-law, then one of the other brothers should be approached to do so.105 The obligation for one of the brothers to marry the widowed sister-in-law only applies if she can bear children and if her deceased husband was capable of having children.

The brother who marries her will succeed to his brother’s estate in his deceased brother’s name. By managing his brother’s estate, hisbrother’s name will not be obliterated from Israel, for that estate will always be remembered as the one that had belonged to his brother.

Since the object of this law is that the surviving brother perpetuate the estate of the deceased brother (including whatever he inherited from their common father), it applies, as stated above, only to paternal or full brothers—since only such brothers jointly inherit their father’s estate, and not brothers who are related only maternally.

7 If, for some legitimate reason, the man does not wish to take his late brother’s wife as his own wife, and neither do any of the other brothers,the late brother’s wife must go up to the gate, i.e., the court, andto the elders, i.e., the judges, and say to them, ‘My husband’s brother has refused to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel. He does not want to marry me.’

8 The elders of his city must then summon him and speak to him, and he must stand up and say, ‘I do not want to take her as a wife.’

9 His brother’s wife must then approach him in view of the elders and remove his shoe from his foot. She must spit on the ground in front of him and respond to his refusal to marry her by saying, ‘Thus must be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s household!’ The declarations both the brother and the widow must be made in Hebrew.

10 The name of the brother performing this ceremony of release must then be called one time, in the community of Israel as represented by those present at the ceremony, This is the house of he who had his shoe removed.’ They must all say in unison and in Hebrew, ‘[This is] he who had his shoe removed!’

Once the ceremony is completed, neither the brother who performed the ceremony nor any of his brothers may thereafter reconsider and marry the widowed sister-in-law, and she is permitted to marry outside the family.

Compensation for Embarrassment

11 As you have been taught,106 when one person inflicts some bodily injury on another person, the perpetrator must compensate the victim for damages, pain, medical expenses, and/or loss of work from incapacitation. In addition, the perpetrator must compensate the victim for any embarrassment suffered from the injury. For example, if two men, a man and his brother Israelite, are quarreling, and instead of trying to resolve their quarrel peaceably, as they should,107 they allow their ill feelings to intensify, and their quarrel comes to physical blows, and the wife of the attacked one approaches to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she stretches forth her hand and grabs hold of his private parts, i.e., his testicles, in order to stop him from assailing her husband,

12 you, i.e., the court, must figuratively cut off her hand, i.e., make her pay him the sum of money that a person of his social status should accept as compensation for being embarrassed this way by someone of her social status. You must not take pity on her by reducing or waiving her fine unless it can be demonstrated that there was no other way she could have rescued her husband.108

Honesty in Business

13 As you have been taught,109 you must not do business with false weights and measures. Moreover, you are not even allowed to possess such weights and measures: You must not keep two different weights in your pocket that you purport to be of the same measurement: a heavy one that you could cheat with by using it for buyingand a light one that you could cheat with by using it for selling.

14 Similarly, you must not keep two different ephah-measures in your house: a large one for buying and a small one for selling.

15 Rather, you may only possess full and correct weights and only a full and correct ephah-measure. Refrain from possessing false weights and measures in order that you live long on the land that God, your God, is giving you. For if you do not, God will incite your enemies to attack you, threatening your continued possession of the land.110

16 Refrain from possessing false weights and measures, as well, in order that God may arrange for you to prosper. For whoever does such wickedthings, whoever perpetrates such injustice, is an abomination to God, your God, and God will undermine such a person’s efforts to earn a livelihood.

Remembering Amalek

Maftir 17 You have been taught111 that God will obliterate any remembrance of the nation of Amalek. You, too, must do your part in obliterating anything that could cause anyone to think about Amalek. Therefore, you must remember what the nation of Amalek did to you when you were traveling through the desert after you left Egypt and remember to take the steps necessary to obliterate any trace of Amalek.

18 Specifically, remember how, on the way, Amalek attacked by surprise those among you who had sinned and had therefore been expelled from the protective Clouds of Glory, and then defiled these men by engaging in homosexual relations with them, and finally cut off the reproductive organs of all these men who were weakened by sin and who were therefore outside the clouds, at your rear.112Amalek did all this after you had been faint from thirst at Refidim113 and were weary from the journey, and they did not fear retribution from God in attacking you. By being the first to attack you, Amalek weakened all other nations’ fear of you.

19 Therefore, in order to restore your esteem in the world’s eyes,114when God, your God, grants you respite from all your enemies surrounding you in the land that God, your God, is giving you to possess as an inheritance you can bequeath to your descendants, you must obliterate the remembrance of Amalek from beneath heaven. You must exterminate every last Amalekite—man, woman, child, and even any animal that belonged to them—so that no one should be able to refer to such an animal as having formerly belonged to the Amalekites.

However, you need not wipe out any inanimate property that formerly belonged to the Amalekites, for it is possible to modify inanimate property such that it no longer evokes the memory of its previous owner. In contrast, since such changes cannot be made in animals without harming them, you must therefore (humanely) kill the Amalekites’ animals.

You must not forget to do this. Because you are obligated to wipe out anything that would cause people to remember Amalek in any concrete way, you are allowed—and even obligated—to remember Amalek abstractly, in order to do this.115