At the beginning of Ki Seitzei (Devarim 21:10-14), the Torah permits a soldier at war to take a woman from the captives as a wife, but only after he shaves her head, grows out her nails, removes her attractive clothing, and has her be in his house, crying over her parents, for one month, in order that he no longer find her attractive. If he still wants to marry her, he may, but if he doesn't, he must set her free; he may not sell or enslave her.

Why is this permissible? How is it fair that because the man has a desire for her (see Rashi to v. 11, from Kiddushin 21b), he gets to torture her to try to overcome his desire (see Rashi to v. 12, from Yevamos 48a, and to v. 13, from Sifrei 213)? What did she do wrong? She was having a pleasant life, possibly married with a family of her own (see Rashi to v.10, from Kiddushin 21b). And then this guy comes along, with a strong desire, and he just tortures her to get a handle on himself? How is that right?

  • The very sources you cite, seem to contain the answer, or more accurately preclude the question. Rashi states: לא דברה תורה אלא כנגד יצרג הרע. שאם אין הקדוש ברוך הוא מתירה ישאנה באיסור. That is, it was a given that the soldier would rape her. The rape wasn't because of the Torah; it was a given. The point of the mitsvah was to control it. The Torah never encouraged it, or said it was right, or fair. Rather the Torah controlled to the extent possible the evil behaviours common in certain circumstances.
    – mevaqesh
    Apr 9, 2017 at 4:09
  • @DonielF What's the torture? It sounds like he's providing a place for her to live while she does normal mourning things.
    – Daniel
    Apr 9, 2017 at 4:15
  • No one said you have to want her, rape her, or do anything with her. BTW, the scenario is that she is a captive of war. War as a rule in those days, assumes that her family was probably wiped out and that she is a displaced person. Giving her a shot at marriage to one of the victors, while she mourns, isn't such a bad deal. But I am sure that if you were in that situation you would do what is right. :) You could arrange to pay for her war reparations and resettle her in a neutral country with a fully paid apartment and food for a year etc... out of your own pocket. The Torah allows that. Apr 9, 2017 at 5:27
  • In those days the women involved would have been the camp followers who where there to seduce the winners. This was actually a much better situation than in in a war between two gentile armies. Apr 9, 2017 at 11:25


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