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Parsha Potpourri: Parshas Ki Seitzei

וראית בשביה אשת יפת תאר וחשקת בה ולקחת לך לאשה (21:11)

Parshas Ki Seitzei begins by discussing the y’fas toar – woman of beautiful form. The Torah permits a soldier who becomes infatuated with a non-Jewish woman during battle to marry her. This is difficult to understand, as only the most righteous individuals constituted the Jewish army. Rashi writes (20:8) that somebody who had committed even the smallest sin was sent back from the war. How could such pious Rabbis be tempted to marry a beautiful non-Jewish woman?

Rashi writes that a person who marries a y’fas toar will give birth to a ben sorer u’moreh – wayward son. The Gemora in Sanhedrin (71a) rules that a child may only be punished as a rebellious son if his parents are identical in their voices, appearances, and height. Rav Shimon Moshe Diskin explains that even the most righteous soldier will be taken aback upon encountering a woman who looks like him and whose voice is identical to his. All external signs seem to indicate that she is meant for him, and he may be convinced that Hashem’s will is for him to convert her to Judaism and marry her. However, from the fact that Rashi teaches that a wayward son will come out of such a union, we may conclude that the ideal marriage isn’t one in which the husband and wife enter already identical to one another.

Dayan Yisroel Yaakov Fisher derives a similar lesson from Parshas Beha’aloscha. The Gemora in Shabbos (130a) teaches that any mitzvah which was accepted by the Jewish people with joy, such as circumcision, is still performed happily to the present day. Any mitzvah that was accepted with fighting, such as forbidden relationships (Rashi Bamidbar 11:10), is still accompanied by tension, as the issues involved in the negotiation of every wedding cause struggles. Of all of the commandments, why did the Jewish people specifically complain about the prohibition against marrying family members?

Dayan Fisher suggests that when the Jews heard that they would be unable to marry their close relatives, they feared that they would be unable to enjoy successful marriages. They believed that the ideal candidate for marriage would be a person who was familiar since birth and who would be almost identical in terms of values and stylistic preferences. From the Torah’s prohibition to marry those most similar to us, we may deduce that Hashem’s vision of an ideal marriage differs from our own. A Torah marriage is one in which the two partners grow together over time to understand and respect one another, allowing them to overcome their differences and create a beautiful, harmonious blend of their unique perspectives and experiences.

 לא יבא עמוני ומואבי בקהל ד’ … אשר לא קדמו אתכם בלחם ובמים בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים (23:4-5)

At the beginning of Parshas Vayeira, Avrohom was in the middle of speaking to Hashem when he looked up and noticed three men approaching him. Excited at the opportunity to perform the mitzvah of hosting guests, he ran to greet them (Bereishis 18:2). Although they appeared to him in the guise of Arab wayfarers, Rashi writes that in reality they were angels sent on Divine missions. Because an angel may perform only one unique mission, Hashem had to send three angels to Avrohom: one to announce that Sorah would conceive and bear a son, a second to cure Avrohom from the pain of his circumcision, and a third to destroy the town of Sodom.

Rashi adds that after healing Avrohom, the angel Rafael proceeded to save Lot from the destruction of Sodom. If the reason for sending multiple angels was because each may perform only one task, why didn’t Hashem send a fourth angel to rescue Lot, and once Rafael was able to perform multiple tasks, why wasn’t he able to come alone and do everything single-handedly?

The Chiddushei HaRim brilliantly explains that although Lot was a wicked heretic who had renounced his belief in Hashem and settled in the moral cesspool that was Sodom, he was nevertheless saved from the destruction which befell his neighbors in the merit of his future descendants Rus, Dovid, and ultimately Moshiach. However, the Gemora in Yevamos (76b) relates that in the time of Dovid, the status of all of these great individuals was called into question by Doeg HaEdomi. The Torah prohibits an Ammonite or Moabite to enter the Jewish people. Doeg argued that because Dovid was descended from the Moabite Rus, he was unfit not only to be king but even to marry into the Jewish nation.

The Gemora concludes that because the prohibition applies only to the males of these two nations and Dovid was descended from the female Rus, his ancestry was indeed acceptable. The reason for the prohibition against Ammonites and Moabites marrying into the Jewish people is because they didn’t greet the Jews with bread and water as they were leaving Egypt. Because it is the practice of men to go out and greet guests but for women to modestly remain in their homes, this lack of hospitality doesn’t reflect negatively on the females of these nations, who are therefore permitted to marry Jews. The Gemora derives the rule that a woman isn’t expected to go out to greet visitors from the behavior of Sorah, who modestly remained in her tent (18:9) as Avrohom hosted their three guests.

With this introduction, we can now understand why Hashem didn’t initially send a fourth angel to save Lot. In reality, Lot should have been destroyed along with the rest of Sodom, but because of the merits of his pious descendants he was saved. The ability of these offspring to become righteous members of the Jewish people, however, was dependent on their descent from a female Moabite. The female Ammonites and Moabites should have also been prohibited to marry into the Jewish nation, thereby negating any merit Lot could have had from his descendants.

However, because Sorah remained in her tent and taught the concept that a woman should remain in her home rather than go out to greet guests, Lot’s female descendants became permissible and his merit to be saved was confirmed. However, because this became clear only through the conduct of Sorah toward her guests, at the time of sending the three angels to Avrohom it would have been impossible to send a fourth to save Lot because his merit to be saved had yet to be established!

ויתד תהיה לך על אזנך והיה בשבתך חוץ וחפרתה בה ושבת וכסית את צאתך (23:14)

The Jewish people are commanded to designate a place outside of their camp to serve as a bathroom and to place a shovel there to enable a person to cover his waste in order to preserve the sanctity of the camp. The Gemora in Yoma (75b) questions the need for this, as the Manna which they ate was completely absorbed in their bodies without producing any waste. The Gemora explains that it was required due to the food items that they purchased from traveling merchants.

In his commentary on Pirkei Avos (3:3), Rav Chaim Volozhiner questions why the Gemora needed to make an assumption – that they purchased and consumed food from passing merchants. Couldn’t the Gemora have answered more directly, that this procedure was necessary due to their consumption of sacrifices, something which is explicitly discussed in the Torah?

Rav Chaim Volozhiner explains that since the sin of Adam, all food items have contained within them both valuable nutrients and unnecessary components, which humans must excrete as waste. However, food which comes from heaven, such as Manna, is purely spiritual and contains no wasteful parts, thus allowing it to be directly and completely absorbed into the body.

From the fact that the Gemora chose not to attribute the need for bathroom facilities to the consumption of the sacrifices, we may conclude that the Heavenly fire on the Altar consumed any superfluous components of the animals burned thereon, thereby elevating the meat to the status of Divine food which was completely absorbed in the body.

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)      A child is declared a בן סורר ומורה – wayward and rebellious son – for stealing and gluttonously consuming meat and wine (Rashi 21:18). Although none of these is itself a capital crime, Rashi explains that he is punished and killed today based on his future actions, as such a child will eventually murder to steal money to support his excessive desires. One who murders is put to death by the sword (Rambam Hilchos Rotzeach 1:1). Even if the child is to be punished today based on his future actions, why is he killed by stoning (21:21), which is an even more severe form of execution than the sword which is used for a person who has actually committed the crime? (Daas Z’keinim, Paneiach Raza, Chizkuni, Sifsei Chochomim, Maharsha Sanhedrin 72a, Maharil Diskin, Har Tzvi, Torah L’Daas Vol. 10, K’Motzei Shalal Rav, M’rafsin Igri)

2)      The Targum Yonason ben Uziel renders the prohibition (22:5) against female use of male garments as forbidding a woman to wear tefillin or tzitzis. How can this be reconciled with the Gemora in Eiruvin (96a) which relates that Shaul’s daughter Michal wore tefillin with the consent of the Sages? (Levush Orach Chaim 17:2, Derech Sicha, Mishmeres Ariel)

3)      If a betrothed girl is raped in the field, the rapist is put to death but she isn’t punished, as it was against her will and although she screamed for help, there was nobody to hear her cries and rescue her (22:25-27). As the man may only be killed if he sinned in the presence of two witnesses who warned him, why didn’t the witnesses come to her aid, and how can the Torah say that there was nobody present in the field? (Moshav Z’keinim, Rav Chaim Paltiel)

Answers to Points to Ponder:

1) The Chizkuni, Paneach Raza, and Sifsei Chochomim answer that because he will steal so much to support his habit, he will eventually steal and murder on Shabbos, the desecration of which is punishable by stoning. The Daas Z’keinim notes that one of the allegations against the wayward child is that he refuses to listen to his parents’ instructions and suggests that this disrespect is viewed as a form of cursing one’s parents, which is punishable by stoning. The Maharsha explains that Chazal don’t mean to imply that the example they give – stealing and killing – is the full extent of the depths to which this child will eventually sink. They simply mentioned this as one example of the many grave sins which he will come to commit, including other sins which are punishable by stoning. If so, why did Chazal mention murder? Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin adds that if it were only for these other sins, we would wait for him to actually commit them and punish him at that time. However, because he will also murder and waiting for him to sin will result in the loss of innocent Jewish lives, we therefore punish him for the other sins now. Alternatively, the Maharil Diskin suggests that while the Torah prescribes the lighter form of execution by the sword for somebody who kills another Jew, a serial murderer who kills multiple people deserves to be punished more harshly by being executed through stoning. This cannot be done in a case where somebody is accused of killing numerous people due to a technical problem discussed there regarding the testimony of the witnesses which would be required to do so. However, in a case where we are killing somebody not because of what he has done but because we know that he will eventually kill many people, this issue does not apply and we may indeed execute him through stoning.

2) The Levush explains that the prohibition against wearing clothing of the other gender is to prevent a person from intermingling with the opposite sex. Because Michal was the daughter of the king, she was well-known and recognizable to all. Because this would prevent her from being able to intermingle with men, she was permitted to wear tefillin. Rav Chaim Kanievsky answers that she was of the opinion that women are also obligated in the mitzvah of tefillin, in which case they aren’t considered a male garment.

3) Rav Chaim Paltiel answers that a river separates the witnesses from the act, such that they are able to warn the man and witness the sin but unable to save the woman. The Moshav Z’keinim suggests that the witnesses came in the middle of the sin, which was sufficient for the purposes of warning and testifying against the man but too late to save the woman.

© 2012 by Ozer Alport.

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