Ki Tetze: Parapets and Crossbreeding

Moshe Ben-Chaim

“When you build a new house, then you shall make a parapet for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thy house, if any man fall from thence. You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed; lest the fulness of the seed which you hast sown be prohibited together with the increase of the vineyard (Deut. 22:8,9).”

What do a parapet and crossbreeding have in common, that God grouped them in a single parsha? One suggestion is they both refer to the need for guards or borders. But Torah ultimately must address human perfection, not physical parameters. So the lesson must arrive at a commonality residing in human nature.

Here's another case:

“A witch, one shall not let live. All who lie [perform sexual activities] with animals must certainly be killed (Exod. 22:17,18).”

 What exactly is witchcraft, and how does it differ from all other idolatrous practices? Well, in the base act of idolatry, one assumes a powerless object (stone, metal, animals, etc.) to possess powers. The idolater prays or serves the idol, awaiting a positive result. A necromancer assumes he or she has contact with the dead, but it is the dead person who offers power or knowledge. The same is true of fortunetellers: they say that certain times or fortuitous. And those who follow superstitions assume objects or events to be causal, when in fact they are unrelated to the anticipated outcome. Molech is also an assumed power, outside the self. In all these cases, one assumes powers to exist. But the witch is different. The witch or warlock boasts powers to be possessed by “me.” As a witch or warlock, “I” claim to be the cause of future events. “I” possess powers to alter nature. The “me” is the focus. 

Regarding bestiality, one desires the sexual gratification alone, without the element of identification, companionship or procreation. Such a deviant seeks to pleasure himself, and no one else. He is abnormal, as he does not seek a union with another human being. The self is the focus. It is all about “me”. Part of the sexual act is man’s desire to pleasure his partner. This satisfies man psychologically, and it is a healthy emotion. But this deviant has only himself as his sole focus. Bestiality is thereby different than all other sexual deviations, as all others include two human partners. The sexual act is not limited to one person. In bestiality, he or she seeks gratification for the self, and no other. Witches and warlocks as well live a life where their sense of reality is centered on whatever they fantasize to be true. In both cases, the deviant person suffers from an egomania, in which, he or she creates a reality around their sensual and psychological needs, and assumes this is their objective, and real human existence. Therefore, we understand the commonality between these two laws.

What's the commonality between a parapet and crossbreeding? We are taught of two events that "might" occur. It appears to me, in both cases, man might assume "passivity" concerning mere "possibilities" is no crime. "I didn't push the guy off the roof; I didn't intentionally crossbreed!", one uses as a defense.  Prevention, is no obligation, one might think. This lack of concern for human life, and creation (maintaining the species) indicates a corrupt soul. We must be diligent and vigilant in securing God's will. If we are not, this signifies our failure to grasp the vital nature of these laws. 

God pairs Torah verses as a means of focusing man on Torah's yet unaddressed points. Had we only one verse, we would not necessarily arrive at the primary lesson. The command to built a parapet alone might be viewed simply as yet one more precaution for life. We would not necessarily detect the subtler lesson of human passivity, and mere possibility (of one tripping-off to his death). But with a comparison, we contrast one verse to the other and detect a similarity; therein lies the primary lesson.