In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Prov.3;6 ב”ה
“Let’s make the next few minutes last forever….”
Devarim- Ki Teitze 5778
Ki Teitzei כִּי־תֵצֵא — Hebrew for “when you go,” these are the first words in the 49 th weekly parashah פָּרָשָׁה.
Let us jump right in to the Parasha. This text begins with explaining a sensitive topic. We know that the Israelites are about to engage in a battle for conquest of the Holy Land.
We know that in times of war many if not all the rules of morality are ‘suspended’.
[Thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery….I am not saying the Torah Laws are suspended but you can see that although there may not be murder taking place there certainly is killing in war; often times the taking of the property of the nations being conquered takes place, although this is not necessarily stealing it is obtaining spoil, and our text will deal with the reality that men in battle will have desires for women which can become uncontrollable.]
Let us look at sefer Devarim, Perek Chaf Aleph, Passuk yud through yud-zayin
10 When you go to war against your enemies and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take them captive, 11 if you see a beautiful woman among them, and you desire her and want to take her as your wife, 12 then you shall bring her into your house. She must shave her head, trim her nails, 13 and put aside the clothes of her captivity. After she has lived in your house a full month and mourned her father and mother, you may have relations with her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 And if you are not pleased with her, you are to let her go wherever she wishes. But you must not sell her for money or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her. 15 If a man has two wives, one beloved and the other unloved, and both bear him sons, but the unloved wife has the firstborn son, 16when that man assigns his inheritance to his sons he must not appoint the son of the beloved wife as the firstborn over the son of the unloved wife.
What we are looking at here is almost unheard of in light of the standards and practices of every other nation at times of war (especially in Ancient Near East context). We have a soldier who is victorious, who has engaged in battle and has his adrenaline at its height of force, he sees a woman he desires (these women historically would adorn themselves in order to distract or even seduce the opposing forces in order to help the cause- the women taking part in putting their sexuality to use as a weapon of war.) The Torah teaches us that this man is to understand that when these feelings are unchained they will not go without consequence. This desire will be to the end that he marries this woman and takes her as a wife. Not a slave, not a concubine but a wife whom he is bound to care for (this is going to cost him in more ways than one. See Sh’mot 21;10 10If he takes another wife, he must not reduce the food, clothing, or marital rights of his first wife.)
In addition to this the Torah creates a situation where this man has to “cool his jets” for at least 30 days. He may not approach her for sex until this time period has passed, and during this period there are several things that must happen (things which are meant to make this woman unattractive to him, to make him think about a little bit more, to make him change his mind.) The woman must make herself unattractive, removing her battle clothing (which was beautiful), shaving her hair, trimming her nails (long nails were considered adornment), and she is engaging in mourning for her family …
(unable to be with them any longer, she is leaving her old life)… this process is never alluring. At the end of this whole process if this man genuinely has developed feelings (at this point the feelings have been made manifest to go beyond just physical desire, for example: he may desire to save her from her pagan ways and bring her to faith in Hashem, or he may actually have grown to have love for her.)…for this woman he may take her as a wife and lie with her. If however he does sleep with her and decides that he can’t put his family through this decision or he himself decides against it he must release her and he cannot do so as slave, she will be a free person. If this sounds bad, please remember that she was already, likely, putting herself into a situation where she was looking to distract and seduce the ‘enemy’ which would involve her willingness to have sexual relations with strangers on the battlefield and furthermore, a life and community where this behavior is condoned and encouraged, in my mind, is a situation where she is already enslaved. In this case, at the very least, she has her freedom in the end.
The following passage is just one in our Parasha which explains through context why this situation is mentioned and dealt with by the Torah but certainly not encouraged or even “condoned”. We see the spiral, the snowball of potentially negative effects of this situation:
Here we see immediately following the passage of the captive woman, two wives…they are competing, there is animosity, and there are children involved. There is potential competition between the children in regards to inheritance and we find seeds of problems for this family.
The repetition in this verse is something to take note of, the loved the hated, the hated, the loved. There is drama in this household and we have seen it before.
We can see that Ya’acov’s family was torn apart by jealousy and strife and this began with turmoil between he and his brother Esav. This was a case wherein Ya’acov ended up having to flee to a “city of refuge” of sorts after the ‘deception’ of Yitsach and it was his father in law Laban who in turn deceives him. Ya’acov ending up with one שָׂנֵא hated wife and one beloved אָהַב wife, also ends up with children who become jealous when one brother rises in stature (the Torah uses the same word, the brothers שָׂנֵא hate Yosef). The son of the beloved אָהַב wife being given the rights of the firstborn instead of the actual firstborn place of the שָׂנֵא hated wife.
So let’s go back to something I wanted to ‘deal’ with, the first occasion of hatred between brothers. It isn’t a stretch to see similarities, two sons both brining offerings (their lives, merits, abilities) to father. Father favors (loving- for Issac loved Esav) of one of them and mother favors the other (for Rivka loved Ya’acov). There is the premeditated intent to kill (Esav awaited the day of his father’s death so that he could kill Ya’acov.); and there is a brother who was ‘hiding’ another brother (“are you indeed my firsborn?”) and the eventual fleeing into a place of refuge.
In the past I have repeated one commonly held perspective on the account of Cayin and Hevel. It is taught that Cayin was not given the death penalty by God as a punishment for killing Hevel because he didn’t know that he would die. Because this was the first murder, he didn’t know that in his jealousy he might come upon his brother and inflict a blow upon him that would end his life. I’d like to say that as I am learning I see things quite differently now.
Two overt things to consider: When Cayin and Hevel are bringing offerings to God, what are they bringing? For the blood offerings, what happens to the animal being slaughtered? Therefore, was there really a question of not knowing, “when I slit this throat, what might happen?” Additionally, what does Cayin say to God when his punishment is meted out? “I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” This seems to be an indication that there is killing and murder present on the face of the earth at this time. Cain knew what would happen, he planned it in his heart (if not exactly how, it was a feeling of hatred he had inside prior to the act of killing), and he was guilty of murder. Why then doesn’t God punish him with the death penalty? I believe this is one of many examples we find of the Torah and its Instructions being present and practiced far before Matan Torah at Sinai. God is the ultimate witness, but to uphold the Torah’s instruction…there must be two or three “kosher” eyewitnesses to enact capital punishment upon a member of the community. So what Hashem decree’s upon Hevel’s rebuttal (which to me is also an indication that the Torah is being recognized: for the blood avengers were permitted to kill a suspected murderer IF he didn’t flee to city of refuge and follow the pertaining rules (ex. staying in that place until the trial, and until the Kohen gaol died, etc.)… Hashem’s response is to place this protecting mark upon Cayin and allowing him to first find refuge in the place where he settled.
[ please internalize the significance to this Divine ordering of the Torah passages and themes. The following is found just prior to the captive woman texts, hated and loved wife, rebellious son, etc. Think about this all with the birds eye view we are attempting to take at these inclusive themes!
Baruch Hashem! ]
What thoughts do you have on the Torah’s commandments regarding the captive woman?
What would you say to those who would claim that God is condoning multiple marriages [siting this a means by which to diminish the Torah] ?
It is my prayer that in this short look into the Parasha you may grow in appreciation for the Torah and reading in context. For in context we can see that this is a lesson which goes far beyond the passage at hand. One choice leads to a consequence for better or for worse. The Torah teaches us lessons for real life. Just because something isn’t ideal doesn’t mean it won’t take place, so Hashem comes in with real life ways of dealing with our humanity in a structure that will discourage us from sin. It is a tree of life for those who grasp it.