> Weekly Torah Portion > Intermediate > What's Bothering Rashi?

The Beautiful Woman


Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19 )

by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek

The Parsha begins with a very unusual law: The Law of the Beautiful Woman captured in battle.

Deuteronomy 21:11

"And you will see among the captives a woman of beautiful figure and you will desire her and you would take her for a wife."



And you will take her for a wife - RASHI: The Torah speaks only in deference to the evil inclination (yetzer hara) "Lo dibra Torah elah keneged yetzer hara." For if the Holy One, Blessed Be He, would not permit her, he would live with her illicitly. However, if he does marry her he will ultimately hate her, as it says afterwards (verse 15): "if a man has [two wives, one beloved and one hated etc.]" And ultimately he will father from her a wayward, rebellious, son; therefore these chapters adjoin one another.



Rashi's comment is amazing! Rashi tells us that since a man at war would in any event take this beautiful gentile woman for his wife, therefore the Torah allowed it! The wording in the Hebrew is: "Lo dibra Torah elah keneged yetzer hara." The Torah, Rashi says, is "giving in" to the evil inclination!

What would you ask on this comment?

Your Question:



A Question: How can this be so? When does the Torah ever "give in" to the yetzer hara? If this were the Torah's approach, any time a man is tempted to do evil, we would expect the Torah to permit the sin on the basis of similar reasoning: "If the Torah does not permit it then he will nevertheless do the sin. So let us make this act permissible."

Our Question: How can this be so? Can you suggest an answer?

Your Answer:



An Answer: The Torah in fact is giving us an important lesson regarding the way in which one deals with his yetzer hara. Based on the Talmudic principle of "pas b'salo" (bread in one's basket) - meaning that if a person has bread in his bag he will not be as hungry as the person who takes a trip without any provisions for the way. Being without food makes one actually feel hungry; having the food in easy reach makes one actually not feel hungry. If the Torah had said "NO! You can't take this beautiful woman" then one's "yetzer" would be ignited even more. By the Torah saying "Yes, you can take her, but...." the clout goes out of the seemingly overwhelming desire to have this woman. The Torah says "Yes, you can marry her, but ... first have her shave her head,... then let her fingernails grow,... then have her remove her nice garments, ... then have her cry for her parents,... then, if you still want her you can have her!"

This is the Torah speaking against the yetzer hara - not for it. How one overcomes the yetzer, not how one succumbs to the yetzer. Because the yetzer is so strong in the special circumstances of war where all rules are set aside, where one's usual environmental social pressures are absent, where one can act as he wills without others knowing about it, when all these factors combine in the case of a soldier at war, the yetzer is particularly powerful. In these circumstances the Torah gives an approach for dealing with the yetzer hara with wisdom and cleverness. The rule: Don't say "NO!" say "Yes, but...."


Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek

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