Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #49: Ki Tetze (When you go out) D’varim (Deuteronomy) 21:10-25:19
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 54:1-10
B’rit Chadashah: Mark 12:18-27
This week we are going to focus on the first two paragraphs of this Parashah with applications throughout the lesson. Starting with chapter 21: 10-14: “When you go out to war against your enemies, and Adonai your G-d hands them over to you, and you take prisoners, and you see among the prisoners a woman who looks good to you, and you feel attracted to her and want her as your wife; you are to bring her home to your house, where she will shave her head, cut her fingernails, and remove her prison clothing. She will stay there in your house, mourning her father and mother for a full month; after which you may go in to have sexual relations with her and be her husband, and she will be your wife. In the event that you lose interest in her, you are to let her go wherever she wishes; but you may not sell her for money or treat her like a slave, because you humiliated her.”
There are several important teachings to which the concept of this scripture applies. Let’s take a look at a few of them. First, it should initially seem a little strange that YHVH makes provision for a man in battle to pluck a good-looking woman from the battlefield and take her as a wife. It is important to establish how most men treat women in a battlefield situation. Research and basic human nature demonstrate the fact that men are aroused in battle. The animal instinct dominates and a man’s desire to conquer (everything). There are men who demonstrate the ability to overcome this innate attribute (Joseph in the case of Potiphar’s wife), but this admirable behavior can only be manifest if one practices it on a daily basis. Of course, G-d knows this as our Creator and He addresses this issue in several ways. Note that he even makes provision for the women of a pagan society in this case.
Zooming in on what (Sha’ul) Paul has to say about a woman’s hair, (1 Cor. 11:15), he does not say long hair is commanded. Rather, if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her as a covering. Regardless, women do not look the same without hair and long nails, both of which are considered seductive. Removing the external aspects of beauty and mandating the man wait 30 days before having sex with the captive woman and taking her as a wife, the man must think twice about his decision. This “time-out” gives the man time to consider the woman as G-d would have men typically consider women as potential wives.
The Talmud addresses this human (men and women) personality trait in the phrase “pas besalo.” This translates as bread in his basket. The concept is that when a person has bread, or anything else they may desire, they are not as hungry. An illustration may be in the context of food. Someone may bring in dark chocolate cookies for the first time. Everyone wants one of these novel treats. Then, as the weeks pass and the cookies are brought in repeatedly, they don’t seem to be as popular because people assume they will always be available. The fact that we have something right in front of us and we have a preconceived notion based on past experience that it will always be available, we tend to feel satisfied and no longer feel an urgency to grab up all that is available. How many of us feel hungry the minute we begin our observance of Yom Kippur because we know we cannot have food for 25 hours? On a day in which we do not have to fast, we may routinely skip breakfast and/or lunch. The fact that we can generally eat whenever we want makes the difference. In the context of a war scenario, G-d is trying to teach us an important principle. Whenever we have a situation, war or otherwise that can potentially cause us to lower the bar on our behavioral standards below what G-d proscribes in His Torah, we need to put our decision in a holding pattern for a time and revisit it when we have had time to consider the ramifications. In the case of taking a woman in war, G-d mandates 30 days; time for the woman to mourn the loss of her family, and the man to consider his choices. G-d recognizes that if He forbade taking a physically desirable woman in a battle situation, it may be too difficult a challenge to overcome. After all, Eve could not resist the forbidden fruit. I wonder if however, G-d had said, “it is here if you simply cannot resist, but I’d rather you choose another fruit” if the outcome would have been the same. Nevertheless, G-d gives man in battle and us in our daily lives a way to control ourselves with things that are not strictly forbidden. In this way, we do not have to weigh our passions versus our values. We must just wait for a time.
Let’s look at this concept from another perspective. We know how important it is for a woman to look like a woman according to G-d’s Torah (Deut. 22:5)
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man… It being very unseemly and impudent, and contrary to the modesty of her sex; or there shall not be upon her any “instrument of a man” any utensil of his which he makes use of in his trade and business; as if she was employed in it, when her business was not to do the work of men, but to take care of her house and family; and so this law may be opposed to the customs of the Egyptians, as is thought, from whom the Israelites were lately come; whose women, as Herodotus relates, used to trade and merchandise abroad, while the men kept at home; and the word also signifies armour, as Onkelos renders it; and so here forbids women putting on a military habit and going with men to war, as was usual with the eastern women; and so Maimonides illustrates it, by putting a mitre or an helmet on her head, and clothing herself with a coat of mail; and in like manner Josephus explains it, “take heed, especially in war, that a woman do not make use of the habit of a man, or a man that of a woman. But the Targum of Jonathan limits it to the wearing fringed garments, and to phylacteries, which belonged to men:
neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment; which would betray effeminacy and softness unbecoming men, and would lead the way to many impurities, by giving an opportunity of mixing with women, and so to commit fornication and adultery with them; to prevent which and to preserve chastity this law seems to be made; and since in nature a difference of sexes is made, it is proper and necessary that this should be known by difference of dress, or otherwise many evils might follow; and this precept is agreeably to the law and light of nature: it is observed by an Heathen writer, that there is a twofold distribution of the law, the one written, the other not written; what we use in civil things is written, what is from nature and use is unwritten, as to walk naked in the market, or to put on a woman’s garment: and change of the clothes of sexes was used among the Heathens by way of punishment, as of the soldiers that deserted, and of adulteresses; so abominable was it accounted: indeed it may be lawful in some cases, where life is in danger, to escape that, and provided chastity is preserved:
for all that do so are an abomination to the L-rd thy G-d; which is a reason sufficient why such a practice should not be used.
Some from this clause have been led to conclude, that respect is had to some customs of this kind used in idolatrous worship, which are always abominable to the L-rd. So, Maimonides observes, that in a book of the Zabians, called “Tomtom”, it is commanded, that a man should wear a woman’s garment coloured when he stood before the star of Venus, and likewise that a woman should put on a coat of mail and warlike armour when she stood before the star of Mars; which he takes to be one reason of this law. Also, there was a pagan practice whereby men sacrificed to the moon thought to be Venus in women’s garments, and women in men’s garments. There exists an image of Venus in Cyprus with a woman’s body and garment, and with the sceptre and distinction of a man. There were many colonies of the Phoenicians in Cyprus, from whom this custom might come; and to prevent it obtaining among the Israelites in any degree, who were now coming into their country, it is thought this law was made; for the priests of the Assyrian Venus made use of women’s apparel, and in the feasts of Bacchus men disguised themselves like women.
Expanding on this idea we may understand the restrictions on cross-dressing also serves to promote continuity of the genders although there may be other applications for the time that we do not know. We can however clearly see that homosexuality is an abomination to G-d (Gen. 9:20-27; Lev. 18:22; Lev.20:13;
1Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1;10; Rom. 1:2; Rev. 22:15-22).
Let’s look at one of the root causes of a married couples’ unhappiness for a moment. We can surmise that the relationship described in this parashah is not based on a couple’s well-thought-out consideration of each other’s spiritual attributes. After all, the captive woman in this case was from a pagan nation of which Israel is not to intermarry. A marriage based on passion and physical appearance alone is doomed to fail. The Mishnah (Avot 5:16) teaches “Any love that is dependent on a specific cause will be gone when the cause is gone. But a love that is not dependent on a specific cause will never disappear.” The context of the specific cause is physical versus spiritual. A physically based relationship will be temporary. Spiritual qualities, however, are eternal and will result in a relationship that endures unto death. 1 Timothy 2:9 reads “Likewise, the women, when they pray, should be dressed modestly and sensibly in respectable attire, not with elaborate hairstyles and gold jewelry, or pearls, or expensive clothes. Rather, they should adorn themselves with what is appropriate for women who claim to be worshipping G-d, namely, good deeds.” Jewish men and women who seek a marriage partner traditionally look for qualities in each other that will promote and augment his or her relationship to G-d. Those who profess to follow G-d’s Torah will consider potential partners in the same way. Similarly, a man who takes a woman captive in battle, shaves her head, and cuts her nails will be “forced” to look for a deeper, lasting beauty before the relationship. Conversely, the captive woman has 30 days to consider her lifestyle, religion, etc. She may and hopefully will convert to the Jewish faith, leaving her spiritual “Egypt” behind. I must clarify this statement by saying that I am speaking of biblical Judaism and not some of the sects that have evolved such as Secular Humanistic Judaism that has lost all reality concerning G-d’s Torah.
If the man loses interest in the woman at the end of the 30 days, he is to set her free and allow her to go her own way. She is not to be sold or treated as a slave because she has already endured humiliation of having her head shaved and her nails cut. G-d provides for the captive as well as the freeman.
In Chapter 24 we find the support for the idea that G-d, who divorced Israel at one time (Jer. 3:6-13), cannot remarry her. Verse 4 reads” In such a case, her first husband, who sent her away, may not take her again as his wife, because she is now defiled.” G-d cannot remarry Israel, but G-d in the role of Yahshua can and will take Israel who will have done t’shuvah (repented), as His bride (Revelation 19:8).
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1-10
This haftarah is the fifth of seven “Haftarot of Consolation.” Forsaken Jerusalem is compared to a barren woman who grieves as she is bereft of children while watching other nations fawn over their broods, while she remains barren and empty. But G-d enjoins her to rejoice, for the time will soon come when the Jewish nation will return to the Land, be restored, and proliferate beyond her wildest dreams. Isaiah assures the people that G-d has not forsaken them, even though He has momentarily hidden His face from them. He will gather them from their exile with mercy and will not miss one kernel. The haftarah compares the final Redemption to the pact G-d made with Noach. Just as He promised Noach there would never be another flood to cover the entire earth, He (G-d) will never rekindle anger toward Israel. Is it not interesting that the matriarchs were barren before G-d intervened to bless their wombs? Not at all. The lesson to them and us is that G-d holds the key to life, creation, sustenance, and restoration; all of which applies to the nation/children of Israel (Ps. 113:9; Isaiah 54:1).
B’rit Chadashah: Mark 12:18-27
Then some Tz’dukim came to him (Yahshua).They are the ones who say there is no such thing as resurrection, so they put to him a sh’eilah: ‘Rabbi, Moshe wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and have children to preserve the man’s family line. There were seven brothers. The first one took a wife, and when he died, he left no children. Then the second one took her and died without leaving children, and the third likewise, and none of the seven left children. Last of all, the woman also died. In the Resurrection, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as a wife.”
“Yahshua said to them, ‘Isn’t this the reason that you go astray? Because you are ignorant of both the Tanakh and of the power of G-d? For when people rise from the dead, neither men nor women marry- they are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, haven’t you read in the book of Moshe, in the passage about the bush, has G-d said to him, ‘I am the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob?’ He is G-d not of the dead, but of the living! You are going far astray!”
This passage reminds us that no longer will marriage, gender, or ethnicity be an issue in the Resurrection. This applies to us regardless of whether we are resurrected to heaven or for hell. Our souls are a form of energy above and beyond the physical world and understanding of it. The focus of the saved will be to serve YHVH/Yahshua; the focus of the damned will be eternal torment.
Similar to the woman taken captive by the Israelite, we have a choice for now; remain in our pagan world with all the rituals and traditions or remove our superficial covering and examine our inner selves in isolation from all that is familiar to us, including our past religious teaching if it is inconsistent with G-d’s Torah. The woman had 30 days to consider her life and mourn for her family, separating herself from her reality. The man had 30 days to observe the woman as an appropriate mate. We have no idea how long we have to t’shuva (repent and turn) to the G-d of the living and allow him to prepare us as an acceptable bride for His Son. Let us take advantage of every day and submit ourselves for a total makeover to the Father of the Groom who can make us new and cloth us with the clean, white linen garments of repentance in preparation for the great wedding (Rev. 19:8).
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart