Within Deut. 21:10-25:19 (Parashah Ki Teitzei), seventy-four of the Torah’s 613 mitzvot (commandments) are referenced. Of these commandments, we first find laws concerning the treatment of “the beautiful captive,” the inheritance and rights of the firstborn, the treatment of a wayward and rebellious son, laws on burial and the treatment of dead bodies, the returning of items lost, the sending away of a mother bird and the stealing of her young, the duty of erecting safety fences around the roof of one’s home and a detail of forbidden plants and animal hybrids.
Yet for us as believers, the initial commandant regarding “the beautiful captive” (vs. 10-14) stands most striking. In this, we find the following,
“When you go out to war against your enemies, and Adonai your God hands them over to you, and you take prisoners, and you see among the prisoners a woman who looks good to you, and you feel attracted to her and want her as your wife; you are to bring her home to your house, where she will shave her head, cut her fingernails and remove her prison clothing. She will stay there in your house, mourning her father and mother for a full month; after which you may go in to have sexual relations with her and be her husband, and she will be your wife. In the event that you lose interest in her, you are to let her go wherever she wishes; but you may not sell her for money or treat her like a slave, because you humiliated her.”
In last week’s Parashah (see Deut. 17:14-20), God gave special instruction on how the people were to appoint a King over Isra’el. In this, he could not be a foreigner, he must not seek after acquiring many horses, marry many wives or seek after great wealth. Although their desire was to “have a king like the other nations around them,” God was nevertheless displeased with their “first” choice and in the end, their desires turned inward as seen in the later end of Sha’ul’s reign and moral demise and drove a wedge between the people and God’s commands.
Such a breach from the perfect will of Torah is further seen in Deut. 21:10-14, where the captive woman was treated not as one to be treasured and protected, but instead as property and even non-human. From this passage, HaShem’s warning to not “sell her for money or treat he like a slave” is directly tied to the fact that he has humiliated her. From the Hebrew, “humiliated” is the word, ‘inita implying that they had been married under Jewish Law, and thus she had to be treated with honor. Thus, in providing her a get (certificate of divorce) enabled her to live freely and without persecution in society. Yet beyond these Jewish legal obligations, we first and foremost must see that he should have possibly never forced her against her will to be obligated in marriage in that in such acts are closer human trafficking and on all levels is at odds with Torah.
In tragedy, as we have watched the news over the last week and have seen the Taliban takeover of Kabul and the nation of Afghanistan, we have witnessed afresh the wickedness that comes to society when any level of misogyny is allowed unchecked, and here in Torah we are reminded that the hallmark of our faith in Yeshua is validated by how we treat the weakest among us and most directly how we treat our wives, our daughters and in fact, all women. In this, we find that the greatest act of strength we could ever proclaim is by acts of gentleness, kindness, wherein we choose daily to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly before our God! (Micah 6:8)
Let’s Go and Defend The Dignity of Every Human Being!
Rabbi Mark Rantz
August 20, 2021, Erev Shabbat
12th of Ellul, 5781
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