Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ki Teitzei- Always Make the Right Decision

In this week's parsha the Midrash Tanchuma teaches us a very important lesson.

כי תצא למלחמה. שנו רבותינו, מצוה גוררת מצוה, ועבירה גוררת עבירה. וראית בשביה וגו', וגלחה את ראשה ועשתה את צפרניה, כדי שלא תמצא חן בעיניך. מה כתיב בתריה, כי תהיין לאיש שתי נשים וגו'. שתים בבית, מריבה בבית. ולא עוד, אחת אהובה ואחת שנואה, או שתיהן שנואות. מה כתיב אחריו, כי יהיה לאיש בן סורר ומורה. כל מאן דנסיב יפת תאר, נפיק מנייהו בן סורר ומורה. שכן כתב בדוד, על שחמד מעכה בת תלמי מלך גשור בצאתו למלחמה, יצא ממנו אבשלום שבקש להרגו, ושכב עם עשר פלגשיו לעיני כל ישראל ולעיני השמש, ועל ידו נהרגו מישראל כמה רבבות, ועשה מחלוקת בישראל, ונהרג שמעי בן גרא ושבע בן בכרי ואחיתופל, ולמפיבשת (ולאיש בשת) הרג, והשליט ציבא על כל בית שאול. ותניא, רבי יוסי אומר, וכי מפני שאכל בן סורר ומורה חצי ליטרא בשר ושתה חצי לוג יין חי אמרה תורה יצא לבית דין ויסקל. אלא הגיעה תורה לסוף דעתו של בן סורר ומורה, שסופו לגמר נכסי אביו עם הסריקין שאכל ושתה עמהן, ומבקש למודו ואינו מוצא, ויצא לפרשת דרכים והורג ומלסטם את הבריות, ואמרה תורה, ימות זכאי ואל ימות חייב, שמיתתן של רשעים, הנאה להם והנאה לעולם. בן סורר ומורה, כתיב אחריו, [ו] כי יהיה באיש חטא משפט מות והומת. אם ניצל מזו, לא ניצל מזו. למדנו, שעבירה גוררת עבירה. ומצוה גוררת מצוה, מנין. דכתיב, כי יקרא קן צפור לפניך, שלח תשלח וגו' למען ייטב לך והארכת ימים. אחריו מה כתיב, כי תבנה בית חדש, תזכה לבנות בית חדש ולעשות מעקה. מה כתיב אחריו, לא תזרע כרמך כלאים, תזכה לכרם ולזרוע שדה. מה כתיב אחריו, לא תחרוש בשור ובחמור, תזכה לשורים וחמורים. מה כתיב אחריו, לא תלבש שעטנז, תזכה לבגדים נאים מן צמר ולבגדים נאים מפשתים. מה כתיב אחריו, גדלים תעשה לך, תזכה למצות ציצית. מה כתיב אחריו, כי יקח איש אשה, תזכה לאשה ולבנים. הרי למדנו, שמצוה גוררת מצוה, ועבירה גוררת עבירה. לפיכך נסמכו פרשיות אלו זו לזו:

I am not going to translate the whole Midrash Tanchuma. However, I do want to draw some very important ideas from it.

The Midrash tells us that one who does a mitzva, performs the correct actions and makes the right decisions, will continue to make the right decisions and perform the correct actions. However, someone who sins or performs incorrect actions will be led further astray by making even more bad decisions. The illustrations that the Torah gives are that when one chooses to take a Yifas To'ar they will end up having two wives, one that the man loves and one he hates, or he will hate both. Then he will end up having a wicked son. The progression tells of the idea that bad decisions and choices lead to more problems. On the other hand the Torah points out that if you make the right choices like sending away the mother bird then many good things will happen to you.

I think this idea is very important to how we view life. Life is not a bunch of mini events that are unrelated, but rather an interconnected span. What we do today has consequences for the future. If we choose to lie today then tomorrow we will have to tell another lie. If we choose to sin today, then tomorrow we will commit even more sins. On the flip side, if we choose to tell the truth today, then we are free to tell the truth tomorrow and if we follow the commandments, then tomorrow we will continue to follow the commandments.

Another thing to point out here is that the Midrash Tanchuma is saying that taking a Yifas To'ar, a beautiful hostage, is not considered a good thing to do. The Midrash tells us that this will lead to a man having terrible experiences in his life. What does this teach us about this commandment?

I think that the Midrash is telling us the following. That even though G-D is commanding us in this regard, it is still not a good situation. G-D recognized the need for men, that have been at war for a while, to take a Yifas To'ar. However, it is clearly a very questionable act. This is why there are so many restrictions that are combined with the Yifas To'ar experience, to help prevent a man from ever entering into this union. This shows us that G-D's approach is that one should deal with a problem head on and not ignore it. G-D could have left Yifas To'ar out of the Torah and ignored a man's desire and need in this situation, but He was smart and confronted the problem head on and gained control of the situation. I think that the reason G-D did this in this situation was because He gave us the commandment of going to war. Therefore, G-D felt He should also deal with this need that would arise during war.

1 comment:

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

This is probably where the mishnah in Avos got the idea: one mitzvah follows another, the reward for a mitzvah is a mitzvah, while one aveirah follows another, the reward for an aveirah is another aveirah.

However, there is a deeper dimension to the yifas to'ar. Notice all the trouble one has to go through to acquire her. According to some you get one free nookie with her before she begins her giyur process but not everybody holds like that. This means that after shlepping her home from the front, and assuming she's been crying and kvetching the whole way, the guy then has to shave her bald and sit back and listen as she continues to cry and kvetch for another month without getting to touch her. Only then does she become Jewish and he gets to marry her.
Only how much Judaism do you think she's learned in that month, seeing as the time is specifically set aside not to learn Torah but to bewail her parents and her people? Socially, what happens next? Yeah sure, soldier boy has a great piece of eye candy to show off at the next chasunah or bar mitzvah but she has nothing in common with the other women. Can you imagine her misery and isolation? Now, you're young and single but take it from a hoary headed old guy. When the wife's miserable, she loves company! no wonder the next part is all about the rules of divorcing her.
But most importantly, see the effort the Torah makes a Jew go through to put himself in such a lousy situation. At any point during the initial 30 days he could just send her home. He has to make the effort to overcome his losing interest in her, to overcome his annoyance at her behaviour, to get her in marriage. All these are opportunities for him to gain control of the situation, as you mentioned.