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 Parshas Ki Seitzei - Vol. 3, Issue 48
Compiled by Oizer Alport


V’raisa b’shiv’ya eishes y’fas toar v’chashakta ba v’lakachta lecha l’isha (21:11)

Parshas Ki Seitzei begins by discussing the y’fas toar – woman of beautiful form. The Torah permits a soldier who becomes infatuated with a non-Jewish woman during battle to marry her. This is difficult to understand, as only the most righteous individuals constituted the Jewish army. Rashi writes (20:8) that somebody who had committed even the smallest sin was sent back from the war. How could such pious Rabbis be tempted to marry a beautiful non-Jewish woman?

Rashi writes that a person who marries a y’fas toar will ultimately give birth to a ben sorer u’moreh – wayward and rebellious son. The Gemora in Sanhedrin (71a) rules that a child may only be punished as a rebellious son if his parents are identical in their voices, appearances, and height. Rav Shimon Moshe Diskin explains that even the most righteous soldier will be taken aback upon encountering a woman who looks like him and whose voice is identical to his.

All external signs seem to indicate that she is meant for him, and he may be convinced that Hashem’s will is for him to convert her to Judaism and marry her. However, from the fact that Rashi teaches that a wayward son will come out of such a union, we may conclude that the ideal marriage isn’t one in which the husband and wife enter already identical to one another.

            Dayan Yisroel Yaakov Fisher derives a similar lesson from Parshas Beha’aloscha. The Gemora in Shabbos (130a) teaches that any mitzvah which was accepted by the Jewish people with joy, such as circumcision, is still performed happily to the present day. Any mitzvah that was accepted with fighting, such as forbidden relationships (Rashi Bamidbar 11:10), is still accompanied by tension, as the issues involved in the negotiation of every wedding cause struggles. Of all of the commandments, why did the Jewish people specifically complain about the prohibition against marrying family members?

            Dayan Fisher suggests that when the Jews heard that they would be unable to marry their close relatives, they feared that they would be unable to enjoy successful marriages. They believed that the ideal candidate for marriage would be a person who was familiar since birth and who would be almost identical in terms of values and stylistic preferences. From the Torah’s prohibition to marry those most similar to us, we may deduce that Hashem’s vision of an ideal marriage differs from our own. A Torah marriage is one in which the two partners grow together over time to understand and respect one another, allowing them to overcome their differences and create a beautiful, harmonious blend of their unique perspectives and experiences.


V’raisa b’shiv’ya eishes y’fas toar v’chashakta ba v’lakachta lecha l’isha (21:11)
Lo dibra Torah ela k’neged yetzer hara she’im ein HaKadosh Boruch Hu matira, yisaena b’issur (Rashi)

            Parshas Ki Seitzei begins by discussing the y’fas toar – woman of beautiful form. The Torah permits a soldier who becomes infatuated with a non-Jewish woman during battle to marry her. This concept is difficult to comprehend. The Torah is replete with warnings against becoming too familiar with the non-Jewish inhabitants of the land, yet it permits a soldier to take a non-Jewish woman home and marry her. Rashi explains that this apparently counter-intuitive permission was granted as a concession to the evil inclination. Hashem recognized that if He didn’t allow the soldier to marry this woman in a permissible fashion, he would do so illegally, so He made an allowance for this exceptional case.

Rav Yechezkel Abramsky derives from here an inspiring lesson. Judaism is such an all-encompassing religion, with laws governing virtually every aspect of daily life, that a person will almost surely encounter mitzvos that run counter to his nature. Although which mitzvah seems insurmountable will vary from person to person, it is likely that there will be laws that upon learning of them, one’s instinctive reaction will be to declare their observance beyond his capabilities.

From the fact that the Torah permitted a soldier to marry a y’fas toar as an acknowledgement that forbidding him to do so would represent an impossible task, we may conclude that our Maker clearly understands our human limitations. If He nevertheless commanded us regarding a particular mitzvah, it must be that He knows that we have within us the strength to overcome the evil inclination by properly observing that mitzvah.


Ki yeish’vu achim yach’dav u’meis echad meihem u’ben ein lo lo sih’yeh eishes ha’meis ha’chutza l’ish zar y’vama yavo aleha v’lak’cha lo l’isha v’yib’ma (25:5)

After tremendous efforts, a couple was given permission to leave communist Russia to move to Israel. Unfortunately, the request of the husband’s brother to join them was denied by the government, so he requested that the childless couple claim his daughter as their own so that they could raise her in Israel with a proper Jewish education.

Unfortunately, shortly after their arrival in Israel, the couple was involved in a terrible car accident. The wife was left unconscious, although the doctors were optimistic that she would eventually have a full recovery. The husband, on the other hand, was conscious but suffered severe internal injuries and was expected to die shortly, before his wife would likely regain consciousness.

Since the man would die without any children, his wife would be forbidden to remarry until performing the chalitzah ceremony with his brother. At that time, travel into or out of Russia – where the man’s brother was still trapped – was virtually impossible. The husband was also unable to free her by divorcing her since a woman must be conscious to receive a divorce document.

The dilemma was brought to the attention of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who responded with a brilliant solution to save her from becoming an agunah who is unable to remarry. The law is that if the brother of the deceased is related to the wife of the deceased and is therefore forbidden to marry her, she is exempt not only from yibum but even from the requirement to perform chalitzah (Yevamos 3a).

Although we follow the ban of Rabbeinu Gershom against polygamy, the Torah permits a man to have more than one wife. In the event that the deceased had a second wife who is not related to his brother, the Mishnah in Yevamos (2a) rules that not only does the first wife (who is related to the brother of the deceased) exempt herself from both yibum and chalitzah, she also exempts all of her husband’s wives, even those who aren’t related to his brother.

In this case, Rav Elyashiv suggested that the husband betroth his niece (who wasn’t involved in the accident) since Rabbeinu Gershom’s decree forbidding polygamy applies only to marrying a second wife but not to betrothing one (Even HaEzer 1:10). When the husband dies, both of his “wives” will fall to his brother for yibum. However, because one of the wives is his brother’s daughter, she will be exempt from both yibum and chalitzah. As per the Mishnah in Yevamos, she will exempt not only herself but also the currently unconscious wife, who will then be free to remarry!


Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     A child is declared a wayward and rebellious son for stealing and gluttonously consuming meat and wine (Rashi 21:18). Although none of these is itself a capital crime, Rashi explains that he is punished and killed today based on his future actions, as such a child will eventually murder to steal money to support his excessive desires. One who murders is put to death by the sword (Rambam Hilchos Rotzeach 1:1). Even if the child is to be punished today based on his future actions, why is he killed by stoning (21:21), which is an even more severe form of execution than the sword which is used for a person who has actually committed the crime? (Daas Z’keinim, Paneiach Raza, Chizkuni, Sifsei Chochomim, Maharsha Sanhedrin 72a, Maharil Diskin, Har Tzvi, Torah L’Daas Vol. 10, K’Motzei Shalal Rav, M’rafsin Igri)

2)     The Gemora in Sanhedrin (69a) rules that a child may only be judged a wayward and rebellious son during the three months after his Bar Mitzvah. One of the accusations made against him (21:18, 20) is that he refuses to listen to his parents’ commands and rebuke. When a boy becomes Bar Mitzvah, his father recites (Orach Chaim 225:2) the blessing Boruch she’patrani me’onsho shel zeh, as he will no longer be punished for the actions of his son and is exempt from the mitzvah of educating him (Biur Halacha 37 d.h. v’yeish omrim). If the father is exempt from rebuking the child, why should the son be punished for refusing to listen? (Mishnah Berurah 225:7)

3)     The Targum Yonason ben Uziel renders the prohibition (22:5) against female use of male garments as forbidding a woman to wear tefillin or tzitzis. How can this be reconciled with the Gemora in Eiruvin (96a) which relates that Shaul’s daughter Michal wore tefillin with the consent of the Sages? (Levush Orach Chaim 17:2, Derech Sicha, Mishmeres Ariel)

4)     If a betrothed girl is raped in the field, the rapist is put to death but she isn’t punished, as it was against her will and although she screamed for help, there was nobody to hear her cries and rescue her (22:25-27). As the man may only be killed if he sinned in the presence of two witnesses who warned him, why didn’t the witnesses come to her aid, and how can the Torah say that there was nobody present in the field? (Moshav Z’keinim, Rav Chaim Paltiel)

5)     Rashi writes (25:17) that the Torah juxtaposes the commandment to obliterate Amalek to the mitzvah to possess honest weights and measures to teach that using dishonest weights and measures will cause the enemy to attack. What is the connection between these two concepts, and in what way is this punishment considered measure-for-measure? (Kli Yakar, Bishvilei HaParsha)

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