Thursday, September 08, 2011

Liberal Torah doesn't impress me either

Him: I am soooo impressed with the progressive morality of the Torah as demonstrated in this week's parsha. We see that a soldier can't just bang any woman he happens to find on the battlefield.  He has to bring her home. He has to let her weep for her parents. He has to demonstrate kindness and generosity and sensitivity. He has to set her free if he decides he no longer desires her. How ahead of its time! How liberal! How inspiring.

Me: Not to pour cold water on your bright idea, but... 

(1) Some interpret the verse to mean that he can bang her, but only once. [BT Kiddushin 21b seems to allow one act of sex immediately whether she agrees or not. Rambam, Hilkhot Melakhim 8: 3ff, interprets the passage to mean that the soldier gets one freebie, so long as it is in a private place. Moreover the passage itself suggests the woman has been raped. It says "...and if you do not want her, you shall send her out on her own; you shall not sell her at all for money, you shall not treat her as a slave, because you "violated" her". In the Tamar story and the Dina story the word for "violated" - from the root anah - is uses to imply rape. TPJ translates it this way, too.]

(2) After the soldier brings her home, he subjects her to what's been described as a "transition ritual." The point of this ritual is not to provide her with time to mourn, or time to adjust, but to forcibly change her into a new type of being. Before she was a despised "Other"; following the month of isolation and enforced ugliness, she transforms into something else, something with which an Israelite can comfortably copulate.

(3) How can you say its "ahead of its time" unless you've researched the prevailing customs? Perhaps the Canaanites in the next town also had a taboo against taking foreign women, and their taboo could also be overcome via some similar rite or ritual?

(4) Before you get too carried away, lets pause to recall that the Torah is permitting a man to take his pick from among the captives. Any girl that catches his eye becomes his sexual partner following the taboo removing rite. Does that sound very liberal to you? If the point is consideration for the feelings of women, why isn't the practice banned? Why doesn't the same Torah that tells us to stay away from pig meat, tell us "hands off the pretty captive girls?"

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