There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
What Does the Captive Woman Teach? – 5782 Ki Tezse Aliyah by Aliyah
This caught my attention: the captive woman, a father’s obligations and a husband’s obligation. What about you?
What Does the Captive Woman Teach?
Why Can’t a Father Choose Heirs?Why Must a Man Please His Wife?
It’s time to explore Torah Portion Ki Tetze Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19, aliyah by aliyah.
Aliyah 1: Deuteronomy 21:10-21
Deuteronomy 21:10 “When you go out to war against your enemies, and HaShem your G-d hands them over to you, and you take prisoners,
Notice this is a mishpat, a judgement, or ruling that tells what Israel is to do when they are in a particular situation, it is not a commandment to do something it is how something us to be done if it is desired.
Deuteronomy 21:11 and you see among the prisoners a woman who looks good to you, and you feel attracted to her and want her as your wife;
Again, this is an “if this, then that” scenario
Deuteronomy 21:12 you are to bring her home to your house, where she will shave her head, cut her fingernails
Having this desirable woman in the house seems like a bad idea, but shaving her head is a massive visual shift that says this woman is off-limits.
Deuteronomy 21:13 and remove her prison clothing. She will stay there in your house, mourning her father and mother for a full month; after which you may go in to have sexual relations with her and be her husband, and she will be your wife.
Chazal says this cooling-off period is meant to humanize the woman and sees that she is not used and then treated poorly
Deuteronomy 21:14 In the event that you lose interest in her, you are to let her go wherever she wishes; but you may not sell her for money or treat her like a slave, because you humiliated her.
This is a surprising amount of freedom this woman gets, HaShem’s wisdom is truly great and glorious.
Deuteronomy 21:15 “If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and unloved wives have borne him children, and if the firstborn son is the child of the unloved wife;
Again a man is not ordered to have more than one wife, but if he does, he must act accordingly
Deuteronomy 21:16 then, when it comes time for him to pass his inheritance on to his sons, he may not give the inheritance due the firstborn to the son of the loved wife in place of the son of the unloved one, who is in fact the firstborn.
Torah dictates some seriously heavy rulings. This communicates to me that the man’s obligations are more important than his feelings and desires.
Deuteronomy 21:17 No, he must acknowledge as firstborn the son of the unloved wife by giving him a double portion of everything he owns, for he is the firstfruits of his manhood, and the right of the firstborn is his.
The firstborn has a right to this blessing regardless of his merit, it is a gift.
Deuteronomy 21:18 “If a man has a stubborn, rebellious son who will not obey what his father or mother says, and even after they discipline him he still refuses to pay attention to them;
Chazal say this kid has to be very close to the age of 13, so this isn’t against younger children, in the culture 5his boy was almost a man.
Deuteronomy 21:19 then his father and mother are to take hold of him and bring him out to the leaders of his town, at the gate of that place,
They can not simply judge this matter as they wish, they must seek the counsel and authority of Judges to take action here.
Deuteronomy 21:20 and say to the leaders of his town, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he doesn’t pay attention to us, lives wildly, gets drunk.’
Chazal’s take on this is interesting, very specific. You should look it up.
Deuteronomy 21:21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death; in this way you will put an end to such wickedness among you, and all Isra’el will hear about it and be afraid.
I wonder why the whole town is involved, not just the parents.
Aliyah 2: Deuteronomy 21:22-22:7
Deuteronomy 22:3 You are to do the same with his donkey, his coat or anything else of your brother’s that he loses. If you find something he lost, you must not ignore it.
You can not turn a blind eye to a brother’s loss.
Aliyah 3: Deuteronomy 22:8-23:7
Deuteronomy 22:8 “When you build a new house, you must build a low wall around your roof; otherwise someone may fall from it, and you will be responsible for his death.
If this, then that concerning liability and accountability
Aliyah 4: Deuteronomy 23:8-24
Deuteronomy 23:8 “But you are not to detest an Edomi, because he is your brother; and you are not to detest an Egyptian, because you lived as a foreigner in his land.
The Torah’s perspective on Egypt is fascinating. Despite the abuse and slavery, Israel is expected to move past that and embrace people from this nation who had wronged them.
Aliyah 5: Deuteronomy 23:25-24:4
Deuteronomy 24:4 In such a case her first husband, who sent her away, may not take her again as his wife, because she is now defiled. It would be detestable to HaShem, and you are not to bring about sin in the land HaShem your G-d is giving you as your inheritance.
Arbitrary as this seems, there is something important about this ruling.
Aliyah 6: Deuteronomy 24:5-13
Deuteronomy 24:5 “If a man has recently married his wife, he is not to be subject to military service; he is to be free of external obligations and left at home for one year to make his new wife happy.
The emphasis on a husband making his wife happy is sweet and stands out as one of a few solid examples of how wildly different Torah law and culture is from the people’s surrounding Israel
Aliyah 7: Deuteronomy 24:14-25:19
Deuteronomy 24:14 “You are not to exploit a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether one of your brothers or a foreigner living in your land in your town.
The equal protection given to the foreigner is endearing and just. HaShem is truly good and shows that He loves all peoples, not just Israel.
Before I go, I want to answer questions raised at the beginning of this session. These are my opinions, based on my time studying under various teachers and while I try to set aside any commentaries while examining each aliyah, I will allow myself to bring some back in for this section. I will disclose where I am getting these ideas where relevant.
- What Does the Captive Woman Teach?
2. Why Can’t a Father Choose Heirs?
3. Why Must a Man Please His Wife?