Friday, September 01, 2006

Parshas Ki Seitzei

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

The Gemora in Shabbos (130a) states that any mitzvah which was accepted by the Jewish people with happiness, such a circumcision, is still performed to the present day with gladness, but any mitzvah which was accepted with fighting – such as forbidden relationships – is still accompanied by tension, as the monetary issues involved in the negotiation of the kesuva at every wedding involve struggles and discord. Of all mitzvos, why did the people specifically complain about the prohibition against marrying family members?

Dayan Yisroel Yaakov 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 and compatible marriages. They felt 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. However, from the fact that the Torah forbids us to marry those most similar to us, we may deduce that the Torah’s vision of marriage and an ideal partner differs from our own.

Parshas Ki Setzei begins by discussing the y’fas toar – a woman of beautiful form – who is permitted to be taken by one who becomes infatuated with her during battle. The Mas’as HaMelech notes that only the most righteous individuals constituted the Jewish army, as somebody who had committed even the smallest Rabbinical sin was sent back from the war (Rashi Devorim 20:8), and questions how such pious Rabbis could be tempted to marry a beautiful non-Jewish woman. Rashi writes (21:11) that one who marries a y’fas toar will ultimately give birth to a Ben Sorer U’Moreh – a 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.

Even the most righteous soldier will be taken aback upon encountering a woman who looks like him and whose voice sounds just like his, to the point that he may be convinced that Hashem’s will is to convert and marry her, as all external signs point to the fact that she is meant for him. Nevertheless, from the fact that Rashi teaches us that a wayward son will come out of such a union, we may conclude that the ideal marriage isn’t one in which the two partners enter already identical, but one in which they work and 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.


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

לא דברה תורה אלא כנגד יצר הרע שאם אין הקב"ה מתירה ישאנה באיסור (רש"י)

The entire concept of the y’fas toar – the woman of beautiful form – is difficult to comprehend. The Torah is replete with warnings against becoming too close and familiar with the non-Jewish inhabitants of the land and against intermarrying with them, yet it explicitly permits a soldier, who spies a non-Jewish woman during battle and becomes infatuated with her, to take her home and marry her. Rashi explains that this apparently counter-intuitive permission was granted as a concession to the evil inclination. Hashem recognized that if He wouldn’t allow the soldier to marry this woman in a permissible fashion, he would do so illegally, so He made an allowance for this exceptional case.

Rav Yechezkel Abramsky derives from here a powerful lesson. Judaism is such an all-encompassing religion, with laws governing virtually every aspect of one’s daily life, that a person will almost surely encounter mitzvos which run counter to his nature. Although which mitzvah seems insurmountable will vary from person to person, it is likely that there will be laws that upon learning of them, one’s instinctive reaction will be to declare them beyond his capabilities. However, from the fact that the Torah permitted a soldier to marry the y’fas toar as an acknowledgement that to forbid him to do so would represent an impossible task, we may conclude that our Maker clearly understands our human limitations and that if He nevertheless commanded us regarding a particular mitzvah, it must be that He knows that we have deep within us the strength to overcome the evil inclination and to properly observe that mitzvah.


כי ישבו אחים יחדו ומת אחד מהם ובן אין לו לא תהיה אשת המת החוצה

לאיש זר יבמה יבא עליה ולקחה לו לאשה ויבמה (25:5)

After tremendous efforts, a couple was given permission to leave communist Russia and move to Israel. The request of the husband’s brother to join them was denied by the government, so he requested that the childless couple claim his daughter as their own and raise her in Israel to be a proper Jew. Unfortunately, shortly after their arrival in Israel, the couple was involved in a terrible car accident. The wife was left unconscious, although the doctors were optimistic that she would enjoy a full recovery. The husband, on the other hand, was conscious but suffered severe internal injuries and was expected to die shortly, before his wife would likely regain consciousness.

As he would die without any natural children, she would be forbidden to remarry until performing the chalitza ceremony with his brother, but at that time travel into or out of Russia – where the brother was still trapped – was virtually impossible. The husband was also unable to free her by divorcing her, as she must be conscious to receive the divorce document, at which point he will have already died.

The dilemma was brought to the attention of HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who responded with a most brilliant solution to save her from becoming an agunah who will be unable to remarry. If the brother, Shimon, of the deceased, Reuven, is related to the wife of the deceased, Leah, and is forbidden to marry her, she is exempt not only from yibum but even from the requirement to perform chalitza (Yevamos 3a). Although we follow the ban of Rabbeinu Gershom against polygamy, the Torah permits a man to have more than one wife. In the event that Reuven had a second wife, Rochel, who is not related to Shimon, the Mishnah in Yevamos (2a) rules that not only does Leah exempt herself from both yibum and chalitza, but she also exempts all of her husband’s wives, even those who aren’t related to Shimon.

In this case, Rav Elyashiv suggested that the husband betroth his niece (who wasn’t involved in the accident), as Rabbeinu Gershom’s decree forbidding polygamy applies only to marrying a 2nd wife but not to betrothing one (Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 1:10). When the husband dies, both of his “wives” will fall to his brother for yibum, but because one of the wives is the daughter of his brother in Russia, she will be exempt both from yibum and from chalitza, and as per the Mishnah in Yevamos, she will exempt not only herself but also the currently unconscious wife, who will then be free to remarry!


אבן שלמה וצדק יהיה לך (25:15)

As the Torah is the blueprint for the entire Creation, it inherently contains within it hints and allusions to everything which will ever exist or occur in the universe. The Vilna Gaon explains that the Torah’s recounting of the episode of Creation (Bereishis 1:1-2:25) contains the events which transpired in the first 1000 years of history, with the second 1000 years hidden in the remainder of Sefer Bereishis, the third 1000 years in Sefer Shemos, the fourth 1000 years in Sefer Vayikra, the fifth 1000 years in Sefer Bamidbar, and the final 1000 years in Sefer Devorim. As Sefer Devorim contains 10 parshios (counting Nitzavim and Vayeilech as one, as they are often read together), each portion hints to the events of one century of the 6th millennium, beginning from Devorim and ending with V’Zos HaBeracha.

The majority of the years of the illustrious life of the Vilna Gaon, whose name was Eliyahu the son of Shlomo Zalman, fall in the 6th century of the 6th millennium, which is represented by Parshas Ki Seitzei. When asked where he, one of the greatest products of that century, is alluded to in Parshas Ki Seitzei, he immediately responded by quoting our verse. The א in the word אבן is short for his name, Eliyahu, with the remaining letters – בן – meaning “the son of,” and the following word is father’s name – Shlomo! He added that the reason his father’s name is spelled out while his is only hinted to through its first letter – א – is because the letter א, when spelled out, is written אלף, which can be rearranged to spell פלא – a source of wonder – which is exactly what the Gaon and his Torah were!

One of his descendants, Rav Isaac Ausband, points out that the name of the Gaon’s mother was טרינה, which has the same numerical value as the three words which follow those which hint to the Gaon and his father – וצדק יהיה לך. Further, the letters which follow the first letter in the first two words of the verse (אבן שלמה) have the same numerical value as Zalman, his father’s middle name!

Based on this explanation of the Vilna Gaon, it has been noted that the early years of the Holocaust, the greatest national tragedy in modern history, fall out in the century which is hinted to in Parsha Ki Savo, which contains words of rebuke and hair-raising threats of terrible suffering which will befall the Jewish nation. However, consolation may be found by recognizing that we are currently living in the century which corresponds to Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech, which is commonly referred to as the portion of repentance, and not surprisingly the years since World War II have seen a wave of uneducated and nonobservant Jews becoming fully observant and returning to their roots on an unprecedented scale, precisely as predicated by the Torah, which should be an inspiration for all Jews to examine and correct their ways as Rosh HaShana draws nearer with every passing day.


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, for such a child will eventually murder in order to steal money to support his excessive desires. How can this be reconciled with the principle (Rashi Bereishis 21:17) that a person is only judged באשר הוא שם – based on his present deeds with no concern for his future actions – by virtue of which Yishmael was saved in the desert? (Tur HeAruch, Matamei Yaakov, Rav Isaac Sher quoted in Peninim MiShulchan Gevoha, Derech Sicha, K’motzei Shalal Rav, M’rafsin Igri)

2) 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, for such a child will eventually murder in order to steal money to support his excessive desires. One who physically murders is put to death by the sword (Rambam Hilchos Rotzeiach 1:1). Even if he 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 that which is used for one who has actually committed the crime? (Paneiach Raza, Chizkuni, Maharil Diskin, Har Tzvi, K’motzei Shalal Rav, M’rafsin Igri)

3) The Gemora in Sanhedrin (69a) states that a child may only be judged to be a wayward and rebellious son during the 3 months after his Bar Mitzvah. One of the accusations made against him (21:18, 20) is that he refuses to listen to his parents’ commands and rebuke. When a boy becomes Bar Mitzvah, his father recites (Orach Chaim 225:2) the blessing ברוך שפטרני מעונשו של זה, as he will no longer be punished for the actions of his son and is now exempt from the mitzvah of educating him (Biur Halacha 37 d.h. V’yeish om’rim). If the father is exempt from rebuking the child, why is the son punished for refusing to listen? (Mishnah Berurah 225:7)

4) The Shu”t Divrei Malkiel and Sefer HaM’tzareif write that calling a child a name which is also used by the opposite gender violates the prohibition (22:5) against use of garments of the opposite sex. Rav Chaim Kanievsky, demonstrating his encyclopedic knowledge, found 38 names in Chazal which are used for both men and women. How many can you identify? (Taima D’Kra)

5) The Torah forbids (22:10) a person to plow with an ox and a donkey together, stating לֹא תַחֲרשׁ בְּשׁוֹר וּבַחֲמֹר יַחְדָּו. The Torah employs a “sh’va” to refer to a generic, heretofore unknown ox, but uses a “pasach” to indicate a reference to “the” donkey, one which is already known. To which donkey could this be referring?

6) 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 put to death if he transgressed in the presence of two witnesses who warned him before he sinned, why didn’t the witnesses come to her aid, and how can the Torah say that there was nobody present in the field?


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