Friday, July 05, 2013

Devarim 22 - a rapist required to marry his victim?

A Guest post by dstaum

In a Facebook discussion, someone asked:
"How would an Aish Rabbi respond to Devarim 22:28-29?"

Here's the relevant verses (JPS translation):

כח  כִּי-יִמְצָא אִישׁ, נַעֲרָ בְתוּלָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא-אֹרָשָׂה, וּתְפָשָׂהּ, וְשָׁכַב עִמָּהּ; וְנִמְצָאוּ.28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, that is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
כט  וְנָתַן הָאִישׁ הַשֹּׁכֵב עִמָּהּ, לַאֲבִי הַנַּעֲרָ--חֲמִשִּׁים כָּסֶף; וְלוֹ-תִהְיֶה לְאִשָּׁה, תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר עִנָּהּ--לֹא-יוּכַל שַׁלְּחָהּ, כָּל-יָמָיו.  {ס}29 then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he hath humbled her; he may not put her away all his days. {S}

This is obviously extremely offensive to our contemporary sensibilities, and, I would venture to say, offensive by any objective standards, even if earlier millenia did not recognize that objective truth.

But in the Ancient Near East, a woman was not much more than property, and the idea was, basically, you break it, you buy it.

But there can still be an uplifting perspective in these verses. The fact is that the Torah was progressive for the time, since that was the ANE version of women's rights and the ANE version of punishment for a rapist. And while it's difficult to claim that the message is timeless or still relevant, it's important to remember that Judaism is not Biblical, it's Rabbinic, and we certainly don't require such a horrific thing today. And Rabbinic Judaism has room to stretch and grow and change with the times. So the inspirational message in Devarim 22 is the fact that traditional Judaism was able to evolve beyond such laws and that shows its worth.

See DovBear's previous examination of this topic here

Search for more information about rabbinic amelioration of biblical misogyny

1 comment:

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