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Parshas Ki Seitzei - Vol. 8,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
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 explicitly 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.
The Torah forbids a person who is born to proper Jewish parents to marry an Ammonite or Moabite. Commenting on this prohibition, the Medrash Pliah cryptically remarks that this verse is what Dovid HaMelech was referring to when he wrote (Tehillim 118:21) Od'cha ki anisani - I thank You (Hashem) because you afflicted me. The connection between these two concepts is difficult to grasp. What does the prohibition against marrying somebody descended from the nations of Ammon and Moab have to do with Hashem causing us to suffer, and why did that specifically inspire and motivate Dovid to thank Hashem?
Rav Mordechai Benet writes that in order to understand this perplexing Medrash, we first need to understand what pain and suffering Dovid was referring to. The Gemora in Shabbos (88a) teaches that when the Jewish people were encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai, Hashem lifted the mountain above them like a barrel and threatened them that if they would not accept the Torah, sham te'hei kevuraschem - there will be your collective burial place.
Commenting on this Gemora, Tosefos questions why it was necessary for Hashem to do so after the Jewish people had already enthusiastically declared that whatever Hashem says, na'aseh v'nishma - we will do and we will listen (Shemos 24:7). The Medrash Tanchuma (Noach 3) answers that although they had readily accepted the Written Torah, which is relatively limited in scope and can be learned with little difficulty, they were initially unwilling to accept the Oral Torah, which is substantially more complex and can only be understood after great toil and exertion, until Hashem forced them to do so by threatening them with mass extinction.
In light of the teaching of the Medrash, Rav Benet explains that Dovid was thanking Hashem for afflicting the entire nation and compelling them to accept the Oral Law in addition to the Written Law. What is the connection between the Oral Torah and the prohibition against marrying a descendant of Ammon and Moab? The Gemora in Yevamos (76b) records that after Dovid slew Goliath, Shaul grew concerned that perhaps Dovid was destined to become king and take his position away from him, so he inquired about Dovid's lineage. Although Shaul posed this question to Avner, who was the general of his army, his advisor Doeg overheard the question and responded, "Before you examine Dovid's pedigree to determine if he is fit to be king, you should first inspect his ancestry to see if he is even fit to marry a regular Jewish woman, as he is descended from Rus the Moabite, and the Torah teaches that a Moabite may not marry into the Jewish congregation."
After a lengthy discussion of the ensuing arguments and refutations presented by Avner and Doeg, the Gemora concludes that the law is that the prohibition against marrying Ammonites and Moabites applies only to the males of these nations but not to the females, who one is indeed permitted to marry after they convert. The Gemora explains this distinction in light of the reason given by the Torah for this prohibition: they did not greet the Jews with bread and water as they were leaving Egypt. Because it is the practice of men to go out to greet guests while women modestly remain in their homes, this lack of hospitality does not reflect negatively on the females of these nations, and they are therefore permitted to marry Jews. As a result, the ancestry of Dovid, who was descended from the female Rus, was deemed acceptable.
With this background information, Rav Mordechai Benet suggests that the meaning of the Medrash Pliah becomes clear. The verse in the Torah which forbids the offspring of Ammon and Moab to marry into the Jewish nation does not appear to differentiate between male and female progeny, seemingly including both of them equally in the prohibition. When Dovid encountered this verse, he became frightened that perhaps it applied to his great-grandmother Rus as well, as Doeg maintained. However, when he realized that the Oral Law distinguishes between the genders and rules authoritatively that female descendants are permitted to marry Jews, he rejoiced and exclaimed Od'cha ki anisani - thank you Hashem for afflicting me at Mount Sinai by threatening to kill us if we did not accept the Oral Torah, which clarifies my legal status and clears the way for me to get married and become king.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Is it permissible to perform the mitzvah (22:6-7) of sending away the mother bird on Shabbos, and if not, why not? (Shu"t Chasam Sofer Orach Chaim 100)
2) The Mishnah in Gittin (90a) discusses when a man may divorce his wife (24:1). Beis Shammai maintains that he may do so only if she commits an immodest act, while Beis Hillel opines that he may do so even if she merely burned his food, and Rebbi Akiva posits that he may do so even if he finds another woman who is more attractive. How could Beis Hillel and Rebbi Akiva disregard the dignity of Jewish women and the sanctity of marriage, permitting them to be discarded for such trivial and superficial reasons? (Chochmas Chaim, Taam V'Daas, Derech Sicha)
3) If a man divorces his wife and she marries another man, her first husband is forbidden to remarry her even if her second husband divorces her or dies (24:1-4). How is it possible that a Jewish man would be permitted to remarry his Jewish wife that he divorced, even after she subsequently got married to a different Jewish man, and all marriages and divorces were in accordance with Jewish law? (Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 155:10)
4) The Torah teaches (24:5) that if a man marries a new wife, he does not serve in the army for one year. Rashi writes that this law only applies if his wife is new, but if he remarries a woman that he had previously divorced, he is not entitled to this exemption. If a man marries a woman and divorces her shortly thereafter, only to remarry her before one year has passed from their original wedding date, does he go out to battle? (Hagahos Rav Eliyahu Gutmacher Sotah 8:3, S'fas Emes)
5) Rashi writes (25:18) that the Amalekites took the foreskins of the male Jews and derisively threw them in the air to mock the mitzvah of circumcision. Why were they specifically opposed to this mitzvah more than to any other? (LaBris Habeit)
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