This week’s parsha contains a panoply of laws, customs, and rituals, in no readily ascertainable order. Given the mixed nature of the parsha, a theme is harder to come by than in most weeks. I want to focus on a repeated phrase appearing in connection to a number of the negative commandments that I think provides a hint for what might bind these seemingly disparate ordinances together. The phrase is “Oo’biarta ha’ra mi’kirbecha” (see, for example 22:22, 24:7) which means “and you shall burn the evil from your midst” (my translation), using the same word as is used in the burning of chametz before Pesach. Many of the laws discussed in this parsha are about what to do with people who stray not so much from the Jewish law, but from the underlying moral law of a Jewish society. Given that the most common response is to kill the offender (and even the victim in the case of rape if she does not scream for help), the image of burning the evil from the midst of the people seems accurate, if harsh.
No exceptions considered
Just like your chametz