Shabbat Parshat Ki Tetze - 5759
"When You Go to War"
This weeks Parshah, Ki Tetze, begins with the law of the "Eishet Yefat Toar," the "beautiful woman," among the enemy population. There is an important "machloket," or disagreement, with regard to this law.
According to Rav, the Jewish soldier is permitted by the Torah to live with the non-Jewish woman at once, and thereafter perform the activities demanded by the Torah, such as "vgilechah et roshah," "she must shave her head," and "uvacheta et aviha vet imah yerach yamim, " "and she should mourn for her father and her mother for a month." Shmuel, on the other hand, holds that those activities must precede the soldiers living with her.
Both agree, however, that the nature of this law is "lo dibra Totah ela kneged yetzer hara," "the Torah is here making a concession, so to speak, to human nature. For the soldiers emotions are very raw; he is after all, in the context of war, being permitted, in fact obligated, to take human life, a primitive human instinct which the Torah usually keeps under tight control. Gratification of sexual desire at will, compared by the Torah in the case of rape to the spilling of blood, is also held in check by the discipline of the Torah. When one bond is loosened, he cannot be held to the same degree of self-control with regard to the other.
In a non-obligatory war; that is, a war not against the seven Canaanite nations, nor against the nation of Amalek, nor a war of self-defense, the Torah listed in the previous Parshah several exemptions. They include a man who has become engaged but who has not yet consummated his marriage, a man who has built a house but has not yet lived in it, and a man who has planted a vineyard but has not yet enjoyed its fruit. These men receive year-long deferments.
There are at least two ways of understanding these deferments. One possibility is that the Torah recognizes that the soldier may not return from battle. And although the communal obligation to serve in the army overrides most personal matters, in these crowning events of life, the potential for human tragedy is simply too great, and the individuals needs override his communal requirements.
Another way of looking at these deferments is that this man could not, under these circumstances, be an effective soldier. For, as the RAMBAM writes in Hilchot Melachim, the Jewish soldier is required to put all personal considerations of home and family out of his mind and to fight with all his heart. And if he fails to fight with all his heart and all his soul, "it is as if he shed the blood of his whole People." So once again, according to this view, the Torah is "not in Heaven, and is again making a "concession" to human nature for the individual who could not be expected, nor be required, to put these personal matters out of mind.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU