Parashas Ki Seitzei

This week’s parashah begins (Devarim 21:10-14):
When you go out to battle against your enemies, and Hashem your God delivers them into your hands, and you capture captives among them, and you see among the captives a woman of goodly form, and you desire her and take her as a wife, you shall then bring her into your house, and she shall shave her head and let her nails grow. And she shall take off the garb of her captivity, and shall remain in your house, and weep over her father and her mother a full month. Afterward you may come to her and consort with her, and she shall be unto you as a wife. And it shall be, if you do not want her, then you shall send her out on her own, but you must not sell her for money; you must not treat her as a slave, because you have afflicted her.
Regarding the statement “if you do not want her,” the Midrash remarks (Sifrei 214): “The Torah is notifying you that you will come to hate her.” This remark is puzzling, for seemingly it takes a phrase that expresses a condition (and, notably, is literally written in the past tense – “if you did not want her”) and interprets it as a notice – “you will come to hate her.” The Maggid explains the remark as follows. There are two types of people who commit sins: ordinary people and thoroughly wicked people. Even when they are doing the same act, their mindsets are very different. In this connection, our Sages teach that a thoroughly wicked person is driven entirely by his evil inclination, while an ordinary person is driven by both his good inclination and his evil inclination (Berachos 61b). A wicked person is completely at peace with his evildoing. He is like the members of the rabble among the Jewish People in the wilderness, who “desired a desire” (Bamidbar 11:4). Of such a person, Yirmiyahu declares (verse 11:15): “When you do evil, you then jubilate.” When an ordinary person yields to his evil inclination, by contrast, he nonetheless still dreads the evil he has done and is upset over it. He may even feel a wish that he had overcome his evil inclination and kept himself from doing what he did. In this light, we can see that it is no accident that the Torah uses a past tense construction in speaking about a Jew who finds he does not want a woman he has taken captive. The Torah is discussing a situation where a Jew’s evil inclination has led him to take a foreign woman into his house intending to make her his wife, but at the very moment he took her home he felt unease with what he was doing – in the depths of his heart he really did not want her. The Midrash is telling us that we can know for sure that a Jew in this situation will eventually come to hate his captive woman and send her out of his house.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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