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Deuteronomy 22:28-29 (JPS)

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; 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.

In today's (American, at least) culture, the idea of having a woman marry her rapist is utterly ridiculous and reprehensible. In addition, this has been mentioned multiple times in connection to the debate over homosexuality, particularly homosexual marriage, and always in a negative light. (That is a tangential discussion and is only marginally relevant to this question.) However, I have heard that this practice actually protected the woman as she would now have someone legally responsible for her.

So, my question is: what's the point? Why institute this law?

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Tagging help would also be appreciated; I'm not Jewish. – El'endia Starman May 22 '12 at 17:41
El'endia Starman: that may be, but you are always welcome here at Mi.Yodeya! Welcome to the site, and thank you for bringing your interesting question here. I look forward to seeing you around! – Double AA May 22 '12 at 17:46
Isn't this also a specific case of a women between 12-12.5? Doesn't make much of a difference, I guess but this law isn't universal for all women I don't think. – Baby Seal Jan 1 '14 at 21:14

2 Answers 2

up vote 33 down vote accepted

And the other critical caveat here: this is only if she wants him to marry her. If she'd rather never see him again, then the Torah never forces her into such a marriage. Additionally, if she wants a divorce, she is still entitled to one whenever she wants even after they wed. (Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 177:3)

All I can say -- if this is a situation where she'd be interested in being married to him -- is the Torah was likely discussing a situation of someone who just got their lust out of control. Criminologists will tell you that most rapists today do it out of hatred for women. It seems the Torah wasn't addressing that type of sicko. I've discussed this point with Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski (I was arguing that the warnings against excessive drinking in Proverbs still don't sound like a full-blown alcoholic as we know it today), who pointed out the Gemara (end of Sotah) says the world's been in a state of decline since the destruction of the Temple, and conceded that the world we know today just seems sicker mentally than that of the Torah/Talmud.

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Thanks editors. – Shalom May 23 '12 at 13:05
Maybe the fine is huge. I mean the alternative is death penalty (too stiff) or jailing, don't exist yet. By fining the guy, at least they both punish the rapist and reward the victim. Moreover, a man that can't afford fine could be a slave. Which is a tough enough punishment. But yea, marriage is a punishment. I like the idea :) Should this be an answer. – Jim Thio Mar 28 '13 at 3:49

The Chinuch says (in 557) it's a deterrent. Knowing they'll have to marry their potential victims (and won't be allowed to divorce them, and have to support them, etc.), people won't rape.

He adds (ibid.) that it's also a protection for the victim: once she's married she's unlikely to be raped again. (I guess people are more likely to rape someone already raped.) (But see Alex's and my comments on this answer.)

However, note that he lists these as "among the roots" of this command: in the end, it (like any of God's commands) is because God said so, and we can't fathom the wisdom of it.

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+1. Although for your second paragraph, if I'm understanding the Chinuch correctly, he's saying not that it'll deter further rapes, but that once she's married, people will forget about her past history and stop bringing it up to (or about) her (i.e., instead of, "Hey, there's Shprintza - such a pity, what happened to her!" people will just say, "Hey, there's Shprintza, Shmerel's wife"). – Alex May 22 '12 at 20:23
@Alex, I wasn't 100% sure, but note that he uses the same words to describe what people will do to her as to describe what was already done to her (ham'vuyeshes and y'vay'shena), and note also the wording "y'vay'shena... badavar hara sheira lah". I'll edit the answer, though. – msh210 May 22 '12 at 21:58
once she's married she's unlikely to be raped again <-- This is false. You mean to say married woman can't get raped by their husband? I hope you know the meaning of rape – Manish Sinha May 23 '12 at 8:47
@ManishSinha, Of course women can be raped by their husbands (which is of course also forbidden), but that is irrelevant in this context. That can happen to her if she marries someone else just like it can if she marries this guy. What we wish to do is make it less likely that she will be raped by someone else, which the Chinuch (according to msh210's understanding) feels is accomplished by her getting married. (Perhaps people are reluctant to rape a woman if it means also committing adultery or if she has a husband that can come after them.) – jake May 25 '12 at 20:58
Can we say, of a person capable of rape, that he is likely to be deterred by something he's not really thinking about? – bondonk May 19 '14 at 21:58

protected by Isaac Moses Jan 24 '13 at 18:56

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