Parashas Ki Seitzei

This first segment of this week’s parashah states (Devarim 21:10-13):
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.
The second segment of the parashah deals with a situation where a man has two wives, one he loves and one he hates, and the mother of his firstborn son is the wife he hates. The Torah states that the man may not deny this son the double portion of his estate to which a firstborn son is entitled. The third segment of the parashah discusses the law of a youth who has turned wayward and is on the way to becoming a degenerate. Rashi comments on the juxtaposition of these three segments. He first notes the Gemara’s statement in Kiddushin 21b that the grant of permission to marry a beautiful captive woman is a concession on account of the evil inclination. He then goes on to say that if a man marries such a captive woman, he will eventually come to hate her, and will father through her a wayward son. The Maggid remarks that it seems peculiar for the Torah to make a concession and permit an act that should have been forbidden. He then asks a question: Given that Torah grants permission to marry a captive woman, why is someone who does so punished with the misfortune of fathering a wayward son?
The Maggid explains the matter as follows. In considering the relationship a person has with his evil inclination – his internal enemy – we can identify three types (cf. Berachos 61b). At the bottom is the person who is completely dominated by his evil inclination. In the middle is the person who must fight his evil inclination, but is usually able to overcome it. And at the top is the person who has completely subdued his evil inclination and made peace with it. Shlomo HaMelech speaks of this third type (Mishlei 25:21-22): “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap coals of fire upon his head, and Hashem will reward you (ישלם לך).” The Gemara remarks (Sukkah 52a): “Do not read ישלם לך but rather ישלימנו לך – he will cause him to make peace with you. David HaMelech described how he had reached this lofty level (Tehillim 109:22): “My heart is empty within me” – David completely purged the evil inclination from his heart.
The relationship a person has with his external enemies parallels the relationship he has with his internal enemy. If he is dominated by his evil inclination, he is dominated by his external enemies. If he is fighting his evil inclination, he has to fight his external enemies, as occurred, for example, with the Jewish People in David HaMelech’s time. And if he has made peace with his evil inclination, he can make peace with his external enemies. Regarding this state of affairs, the Torah states (Devarim 11:25): “No man will stand up against you – Hashem, your God, will set fear and terror of you upon the entire face of the earth where you will tread.” Hashem made a similar promise to Yehoshua (verse 1:5): “No man will stand up against you all the days of your life.”
The section of the Torah presenting the law of the beautiful captive woman begins with a key introductory phrase: “When you go out to battle against your enemies.” The Torah is addressing a situation where the Jewish People are fighting enemy nations – and, in parallel, the individual Jews are fighting their evil inclination. When someone is in a constant fight against his evil inclination, the temptation to take a beautiful captive woman as a wife is too strong a temptation to resist. This is why the Torah, as a concession, permitted such a marriage. In a situation where the Jews have completely subdued their evil inclination, and accordingly are at peace with their external enemies, the Torah does not permit marrying a captive woman, for there is no need to do so. When someone avails himself of the permission in wartime to take a beautiful captive woman as a wife, Hashem arranges for this wife to bear him a wayward son. In this way, Hashem sends him a message that there is a higher level that he should strive for.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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