Ki Teitzei/Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19
Let's Get Physical!
The commandment to remove a corpse from the stake on which it is impaled teaches us the importance of respecting the holiness of the body.
The definition of what is "religious" shifts throughout the ages. In antiquity, being religious meant offering sacrifices (of children, women, prisoners taken in war) and making regular gifts to the gods. In biblical Israel, it meant being aware of God's presence, by bringing animal sacrifices to the Temple in Jerusalem at the designated times.
By the Second Temple period, a new emphasis, one of ritual purity, ethical rigor, and obedience to a growing oral tradition became the defining feature of pharisaic religiosity, which the Rabbis of the Talmud extended into an emphasis on the performance of mitzvot (commandments) and study as religious acts.
In the medieval period, study and ritual purity remained important, but they were refocused through the lenses of kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. Finally, in the early modern age, social justice (for some) and celebration through song and dance (for others) often competed with the earlier identifying features of religiosity.
Jews today have inherited this range of different ways of being religious--from offerings to social justice, from prayer and study to dance, from purity to the performance of mitzvot.