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August 26, 2012 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Ki Teitzei

This week’s portion begins with the law of the “captive woman.”  When Jews take a female captive as a prisoner of war, they may not rape her as was the common custom in many wars.  Instead, they must give her thirty days in which to uglify herself (by shaving her head).

After that, a Jewish solider may marry her; it is not clear to me whether her consent is relevant (though the Torah prohibits treating her as a slave, Deut. 21:14, so maybe that phrase requires her consent).

To Nachmanides, the more interesting question is: what if the solider doesn’t want her?  Where does she go?  The portion states she may “go whither she will.” (21:14).  Does that mean she goes home?

Maybe not. Sifre (a midrashic book) says “not to her fathers’ house.” Nachmanides states that he does not know whether Sifre is saying A) she is a Jew at this point (in which case she obviously cannot become an idol worshipper again) or B) that “he is not to send her to her father’s house with attendants, for in that case he would be assisting those who commit a transgression.”  So at the very least the solider can’t help her go home because that would be facilitating idolatry.

But Nachmanides takes the latter, more humane view without too much explanation, stating that “he is to let her go where she pleases” and “perhaps she will remain in the Land … and be married to [another Jew, or at least a non-idol-worshipping non-Jew of some sort].”

Of course, being a non-Jewish woman alone in ancient Israel doesn’t sound like much fun.  But depending on how far away “home” was, going home might not be either.  (On the other hand, given that most wars probably involved tiny city-states, maybe home wasn’t that far away).

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