|By Rabbi Chaim Richman|
(Deuteronomy 21:11)"When you go out to war against your enemies, and HaShem, your
Elul 10, 5773/August 16, 2013
The Torah then goes on to describe a thirty day process, in which the captive woman is brought to the man's house, and must shave her head and refrain from cutting her nails. In other words, she must allow her outward appearance to become unadorned and unattended to. If, after the thirty day trial, the warrior who captured her still desires her, then"after that, you may be intimate with her and possess her, and she will be a wife for you." (ibid 21:13) Thus begins this week's Torah reading,parashat Ki Teitzei. Our sages traditionally have understood that Torah is describing a situation in which the dehumanizing reality of war has gotten the better of our warrior. Flush with victory over his enemies, raw physical desire overcomes him. To completely forbid him to act on this in any way might be more than he can abide. So Torah acts wisely, creating a series of steps designed to bring our warrior back from the moral precipice that he has entered. If, after thirty days he has returned to himself, then the captive woman can be released, minimal harm done. If, after thirty days his desire has evolved into love, then he may marry the captive woman. In this we witness the wisdom of Torah. Intended to be a way of life than man can live by, Torah needs to accept man as he is, with all his strengths and weaknesses, in order to guide man to perfection.
The eighteenth century Torah sage, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, (The Holy Light of Life), understood this same passage differently. Our warrior has bravely and successfully performed the commandment of going out to war against the enemies of Israel, risking his life to do so, and has emerged victoriously. Uplifted spiritually by the greatness of his endeavor, he is granted a spirit of prophecy. It is this spirit of prophecy that enables him to see in the helpless and hapless captive woman a hitherto hidden but now overwhelming inner beauty of purity and holiness. Torah allows him to bring the woman into his household, where, for the duration of one month she will allow her outward physical beauty to lapse. In this way our holy warrior can verify the truth of his prophetic moment, and allow his soul to attach to her soul.
These two views expressed by our sages could not be more divergent, yet both express the truth. How that truth is manifest in our lives is, as always, our choice. Torah recognizes that at that moment, whether it is a moment of physical lust or a moment of prophetic enlightenment, our warrior has no choice, He is overcome by what he feels. What he does next, however, is his choice, and this is where Torah steps in to guide him.
Forty six years ago the brave warriors of Israel captured, on behalf of the entire nation, a woman of beautiful form. The entire nation was immediately overcome with desire. But was it a desire grounded in base physical impulses, or was it a desire based upon prophetic vision and a yearning to fulfill
Having allowed this woman of beautiful form, this place where theShechinah of
Or has our love for this forsaken beauty only grown deeper and more profound, even as she has been systematically stripped of all her outward beauty. Do we still see in our mind's eye and in the prophetic stirrings of our heart, the eternal and enduring beauty and holiness of this one place on earth that
Unwanted burden or the ultimate love of our lives? The choice is ours and whatever we choose will be the truth. Are we common foot-soldiers temporariy overcome by our most base desires? Or are we the holy children of