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Torah Sparks

August 17, 2002 - 5762

Prepared by Rabbi David L. Blumenfeld, PhD
Department of Services to Affiliated Congregations

Annual Cycle: Deut.21:10-25:19; Hertz, p. 840; Etz Hayim, p. 1112
Triennial Cycle I: Deut. 21:10-23:7; Hertz, p. 840; Etz Hayim, p. 1112
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1-10; Hertz, p. 857; Etz Hayim, p. 1137

This Shabbat’s Torah Portion Summary

(21:10-22:12) Miscellaneous laws: treatment of a woman captured in war, the first-born son's inheritance, a rebellious son, returning lost property, helping a fallen animal, prohibition of cross-gender dressing, sending the mother bird from the nest before collecting fledglings or eggs, building a railing around a roof, prohibition of mixed seed, the law of tzitzit (fringes) on the garment.

(22:13-23:7) Laws of marriage.

(23:8-24:13) Miscellaneous laws: not to abhor an Edomite or Egyptian, preserving the purity of the camp of Israel during war, prohibition of returning a runaway slave, prohibition of sexual immorality, prohibition of taking interest, keeping vows, maintaining the rights of a laborer, divorce and marriage, on the taking of pledges and kidnapping, on leprosy, limits on collecting pledged items.

(24:14-22) Laws concerning the treatment of workers, individual responsibility, and justice for the most helpless members of society. The laws of gleaning, forgotten sheaf, and the field corner.

(25:1-16) Miscellaneous laws: regulating and limiting the punishment of lashes, kindness to animals, "yibbum" (the law of the childless deceased brother), on unfair fighting, honest weights and measures.

(25:17-19) The commandment to remember Amalek.

This Shabbat's Theme: "A Code of Practice During War"

When you take the field against your enemies, and the Lord, your G-d, delivers them into your power and you take some of them captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you desire her and would take her to wife, You shall bring her into your house, and she shall trim her hair, pare her nails and discard her captives's garb. She shall spend a month's time in your home lamenting her father and mother; after that, you may come to her and possess her, and she shall be your wife. (Deut. 21:10-13)

  1. "Grow her nails": to make her unattractive (Sifre, Talmud Yebamot 48; Rashi; Ibn Ezra; Abravanel)
  2. These actions are part of the mourning customs which she is required to observe (Nachmonidies)
  3. This law requires a soldier who wishes to marry a captive woman to show consideration for her feelings. He must allow her to adjust to all that has happened by bringing her back to his home and waiting a month before marrying her. In case he later becomes dissatisfied with her, he may not reduce her to slavery. A significant aspect of this law is its respect for the person hood of the captive woman and the moral obligations created by initiating a sexual relationship with her. (J. Tigay, JPS Torah Commentary - Deuteronomy; 1996; p. 194)
  4. Said the Sassover Rebbe; We may understand this verse (Deut. 21:10) to teach us that when we go forth to battle against our (enemies) "evil impulses", the Lord will deliver them into our hands. The Lord assists in such a battle. (Menorah heTehorah, J. A. Frankel; 1911;p.61; I. Newman; The Hasidic Anthology; p. 133)
  5. This law inculcates thoughtfulness and forbearance under circumstances in which the warrior, elated by victory, might deem himself at liberty to act as he pleased (Driver). After the countless rapes of conquered women with which recent history has made so painfully familiar, it is like hearing soft music to read of the warrior's duty to the enemy woman, of the necessary marriage with its set ritual and its due delay (Zangwill) (J.H. Hertz, The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, p. 840)
  6. The juxtaposition of the first three passages of this Torah portion are in themselves an implicit argument against this sort of liaison, for after giving the laws of the captive woman (above), the Torah then goes on to speak of a "hated wife" and then an incorrigibly "rebellious child". The implication is that there is a chain reaction, namely, that this improper infatuation with the captive woman will lead to one family tragedy after another (Rashi). (The Chumash, Art Scroll Series, p.1047)

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