Ki Teitzei 5772 – Gilayon #764
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Parshat Ki Tetseh
Should you go out to battle against your enemies
and the Lord your God give him in your hand
and you take captives from him,
and you see among the captives a woman
of comely features and you desire her
and take her for yourself as wife
Take her for yourself as wife – The Torah is making a concession to human
weakness [yetzer ha'ra],
for if the Holy One does not permit her to him, he will take her despite the
prohibition, but if he does marry her, ultimately he will hate her, for the
text follows with "If a person has two wives, etc" and in the end
there will be born to him a wayward and rebellious son. This explains the juxtaposition
of these topics.
This book also includes the law concerning
the beautiful captive woman. You know their [our Sages] dictum: 'The Torah only
speaks in consideration of concupiscence'. Nevertheless this commandment
includes an exhortation to noble moral qualities, which excellent men must
acquire in a way I shall indicate. For though his concupiscence overcomes him
and restraint is impossible for him, he must obligatorily bring her to a hidden
place; as it says: Home to thine house. And as[the Sages] have explained, he is not permitted to do her violence during the
war. And he is not allowed sexual intercourse with her for the second time
before her grief has calmed down and her sorrow has been quieted. And she
should not be forbidden to grieve, to be disheveled, and to weep; as the text
says: And she shall bewail her father and her mother, etc. For those who
grieve find solace in weeping and in arousing their sorrow until their bodily
forces are too tired to bear this affection of the soul; just as those who
rejoice find solace in all kinds of play. Therefore the Law has had pity on her
and gave her the possibility to do so until she is weary of weeping and of
grieving. You know that he can have sexual intercourse while she is still a
Gentile. She may also, for thirty days in public, profess her religion, even in
an idolatrous cult, and may not during that period be taken to task because of
a belief. Withal if he does not succeed afterwards to convert her to the
statutes of the Law, she may not be sold or treated as a slave. For the Law
safeguards her inviolability on account of her have exposed herself in sexual
intercourse, even if this has happened through a certain act of disobedience – I
refer to her having then been a Gentile – and says withal: Thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast
humbled her. Accordingly it has become clear that this commandment contains
encouragement to a noble moral quality. The reasons for all the commandments
contained in this book have accordingly become clear.
(Rambam, The Guide of the
Perplexed, III-41, Pines translation)
Thoughts on "returning losses"
In his novel, "Shirah", S. Y. Agnon
departs temporarily from the central theme to tell of a garbage collector who
finds a hat in "a Talpiyot garbage bin. Since
the hat was pleasing, he thought that it happened into the garbage by mistake,
for he was not yet acquainted with the Askenazic practice
of throwing things into the garbage even though they have no flaw. He took the
hat and knocked on the door of the hat's owner. The master of the house came
out and asked 'What do you want?' He showed him the hat in his hand and told
the owner of the hat 'I found it in the garbage can, sir, and I am bringing it
to you.' The owner laughed and said to him, 'It's yours,
you can wear it on Shabbat and holydays'. Abba (the garbage collector, father
of another character, N.M.M.) looked again at the hat and told the owner, 'May
you merit many mitzvoth'."
With this anecdote, Agnon summarizes the modern attitude towards
objects in a world ruled by a culture of consumerism, demonstrating with simplicity
how one man's garbage is another man's luxury. The story of the hat illustrates
the social gap (the owner of the hat is the owner of the house is the master)
and the ethnic divide. Agnon has the garbage collector utter the blessing "May
you merit many mitzvoth" – how ironic,
after all, it is he who has merited the mitzvah – returning a lost item.
The passages on returning lost items in our parasha
reveal a reality unlike ours, one in which every animal and mute object is
impermanent and essential. Their loss is a true blow for their owner, occasionally
even a catastrophe. Even in the reality with which we are acquainted there are
losses and their return is very important – the disappearance of a pet, or an object with historical or sentimental value may
deeply pain their owners. With all this, our most essential objects can be
replaced: credit cards can be cancelled and reordered, keys can be duplicated.
The rationale of this mitzvah, as stated in the "Sefer HaChinuch" is simple (Mitzvah 538): 'The reason for this mitzvah
is obvious, it benefits all and contributes to orderly
society. For forgetfulness is universal, livestock escapes in all directions,
and if this mitzvah is observed by our nation, animals and implements
everywhere in our holy land will be as if always in the owner's possession."
Return of a loss is a kind of minor tikkun
olam – repair of society – and it is with good
reason that the Book of Devarim stresses the sense of
fraternity as part and parcel of the mitzvah through repeated use of the
word "your brother", including the situation where "your brother
is not close to you and you do not know who he may be". In the utopia
minor described by the author of the Sefer HaChinuch, the loser need not fear, because his animal or
vessel is safely guarded by someone who is as if a brother to him, as if they
were with himself.
Twice the Torah urges us not to ignore the ox or the sheep "slipping
away" employing a unique verb rarely used in the Bible. The use of the verb
"to ignore" – once in the reflexive mode– leads us, as is usual with
this conjugation, to understand that under discussion is an act which one does
to himself, with himself. This is to say – by ignoring, you are also ignored[lit. 'disappear' – K.G.]. In the inability to see the
lost thing, in the failure to take responsibility, there is a diminution of
self. The person makes believe that "he wasn't here', as though he did not
see and did not hear the distress of the other, in the words of Rashi: "to hide your eyes as though you did not see
it." In the Biblical reality, the loss of something constitutes distress.
The text, employing identical wording, continues to the next command: "You
shall not see your brother's donkey or his ox falling on the way and ignore
them. You shall surely raise them up with him". The continuum of mitzvoth
of returning lost items and assistance to an animal collapsing on the way
appeared earlier in the Book of Shemot, much more
23:4-5): "Should you encounter your enemy's ox or his donkey
straying, you must surely return it to him. Should you see your adversary's
donkey sprawling under its load and would hold back from assisting, you shall
surely assist him." Comparison of the two sources, dealt with extensively
by sages and commentators, reveals that the commandments in Shemot
deal with the responsibility for animals belonging to the enemy and adversary,
not to the brother, and Chazal expounded that the wording
of the commandment in the Book of Shemot is intended
to encompass the lost item of the enemy (Sifri Devarim). The emphasis
on the enemy is liable to lead to the conclusion that at the heart of the
mitzvoth as they appear in Shemot is the desire to
help the animals. People may hate and threaten each other, but why should the
beasts pay the price? We are not to include them in our petty accounts, but are
rather to understand their suffering and help them, to return them to a safe
place where food is found, to lighten their load. Perhaps this (too) is the
reason why the garment is not mentioned in the Book of Shemot.
Its appearance in Devarim emphasizes the possibility
that in Devarim the emphasis moves from lightening
the situation of the animal to responding to human distress.
The verb "to ignore" appears again in Isaiah 58:7: "When
you see the naked, to cloth him, and not to ignore your own skin." One can
imagine that the same situation is being dealt with, only the point of view has
changed. In Devarim, someone finds a garment, a
covering, and he is required to watch over it until "your brother inquires
for it". The passage in Isaiah speaks of one who has somehow lost his
garment; the prophet recalls the bond of flesh, paralleling the tie of fraternity.
The unclothed's flesh which is revealed is our flesh,
we may not ignore it. We, in personality and flesh, must be present.
The way lost items are returned has changed beyond recognition since
the Biblical era, but there will always be losses. People lose their source of
livelihood, their home, sometimes their dignity. The power of routine and anesthetization
to seeing distress causes us to ignore, to look aside, to
disappear. Chazal formulated the spirit of the mitzvah
in the following simple words: "And you shall return it [lit. 'him'] to him" – you shall return himself to him". (Sifre Devarim).
In the spirit of the mitzvah we are enjoined to identify these losses
and these losers, and, regardless of the difficulty, not to ignore them.
mother of two sons, teaches art in Himmelfarb H.S.
completing her M.S. in Culture Studies in the
When you reap your harvest in
your field and forget a sheaf in the field: an Unintentional Commandment
It happened that a certain pious
man forgot a sheave in his field and he told his son: "Go and sacrifice
for me a bull as a burnt offering and a bull for a peace offering."
He asked him: "Father, why
did you see fit to rejoice more in the fulfillment of this commandment than of
all the other commandments in the Torah?"
He told him: "The
Omnipresent gave them all the other commandments of the Torah to perform
intentionally; but this one is performed unintentionally, for if we had acted willingly before the Omnipresent, we would
not have an opportunity to perform this commandment. Rather, it says, when you reap, etc. and Scripture established
a blessing [in reward] for its performance. This is a kal vahomer! If someone did not intend to
perform the commandment yet performed it is considered as if he performed it, all
the more so someone who intended to perform it and did perform it!
(Tosefta Pe'ah 3:14)
Anticipation of Reward: Incentive or Obstacle?
There are mitzvoth
that are rewarded with wealth, and there are mitzvoth that are rewarded with
honor; what is the reward for this mitzvah? If you have no children, I will
give you children. From where do we know this? It is written, Send, yes,
send away the mother – and
what is the reward you reap? And
take the offspring for yourself.
(Devarim Rabba, 6)
Aher [Elisha ben Abuya] saw a person climb to
the top of a palm tree on Shabbat, take the mother together with the fledglings,
and climb down safely. Immediately following the Shabbat, he saw one climb to
the top of a palm, take the fledgling, send away the mother, descend, be bitten
by a snake, and die. He said: it is written (Devarim 22) "Send, yes, send away the mother
and take the offspring for yourself, so that you may fare well and have a long
life." Where is the welfare
of this person? Where is his long life? He was unaware that Rabbi Akiva had expounded "So
that you fare well"– in that
world of total good;"and
have a long life "
– in that long-lasting world."
(Kohellet Rabba 7)
"Take Care Against Anything Evil": Ethical Behavior in Times
"When a camp
goes out to battle" –Even though you go out of the boundaries
of routine family and civic life when you are in a military camp prepared for
war against you enemies (the Sifrei emphasizes "against
your enemies"–you wage war against your enemies". The
Torah assumes that you will fight only those who have shown themselves to be
your enemies, that you suffered from their fathers and anticipated hostile
acts, therefore even when you attack them, take care of yourself; these words
negate all wars of conquest), and therefore even when you are in a military
camp, where moral constraints are easily loosened and the goal of war itself
contributes to unbridled coarseness – even then "Take care against
anything evil"– do not cease to test yourself as you practice
self-control, and be careful to protect yourself "against anything
Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, Commentary on Devarim 23:10)
registration number 5708. I am writing in reaction to the
caricature which appeared in Issue 761 of "Shabbat Shalom".
caricature appear Jews wearing chareidi-style hats
sitting at the Western Wall reciting Lamentations. One says to another "The
8:45 flight has express check-in, I've reserved glatt
meals, we'll meet at the duty-free".
like the caption, is directed against ultra-Orthodox Jews.
admit: I found it difficult to read these things particularly in the Tisha B'Av issue, which concluded
with the well-known saying "we will return and be rebuilt… through
It seems to
me to be improper for a publication with the heading "Shalom" to
devote its first page to hatred of the other, even he does wear black clothes,
even if he eats glatt, and even if he does not belong
beating on the chest of others, and a caricature intends to correct them – but not ourselves – does not impress me so much. Perhaps if the
distinguished illustrator and we ourselves would search the conversations in "our"
synagogues and by "our" youth at the Western Wall, we would discover
a few conversations which, if we look, we could see "our shame".
I am writing
this letter because this is the second illustration this year directed against
With blessings, Uzi Fuchs – Kfar Adumim
Harry Langbeheim responds:
Thank you for
your remarks regarding the Shabbat Chazon caricature.
There was certainly no intention on my part to insult anybody.
A few points
in support of the freedom of visual expression:
(1): The proportion of Hareidi Jews who pray
regularly at the Western Wall is high; a glance at "Western Wall live
online" shows most of the visitors wearing black clothes.
(2: In the year 5772, I published
43 caricatures in "Shabbat Shalom". In five of them appear Hareidi Jews in traditional garb.
(3): Hareidi Jews make up 8.5% of the
Israeli population, in
34%. From this it can be seen that I do not give affirmative action to any
particular sector; the main aim of the caricature is to evoke a smile. The bein hazemanim ["intermediary
days" — summer break between Yeshiva semesters] is the
season for vacations and trips abroad for synagogue-goers, those who wear black
clothes and those who wear white shirts, those with the shtreimel
and those with the knit-kippot. May we hope for the
realization of the prophecy we read during the "seven Shabbatot
of consolation": "The voice of your watchmen- they raised a voice,
together they shall sing, for eye to eye they shall see when the Lord returns
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