Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Devarim 22 - a rapist required to marry his victim?

In a Facebook discussion, someone asked:
"How would an Aish Rabbi respond to Devarim 22:28-29?"

Here's the relevant verses (JPS translation):

כח  כִּי-יִמְצָא אִישׁ, נַעֲרָ בְתוּלָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא-אֹרָשָׂה, וּתְפָשָׂהּ, וְשָׁכַב עִמָּהּ; וְנִמְצָאוּ.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;
כט  וְנָתַן הָאִישׁ הַשֹּׁכֵב עִמָּהּ, לַאֲבִי הַנַּעֲרָ--חֲמִשִּׁים כָּסֶף; וְלוֹ-תִהְיֶה לְאִשָּׁה, תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר עִנָּהּ--לֹא-יוּכַל שַׁלְּחָהּ, כָּל-יָמָיו.  {ס}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. {S}

This is obviously extremely offensive to our contemporary sensibilities, and, I would venture to say, offensive by any objective standards, even if earlier millenia did not recognize that objective truth.

But in the Ancient Near East, a woman was not much more than property, and the idea was, basically, you break it, you buy it.

But there can still be an uplifting perspective in these verses. The fact is that the Torah was progressive for the time, since that was the ANE version of women's rights and the ANE version of punishment for a rapist. And while it's difficult to claim that the message is timeless or still relevant, it's important to remember that Judaism is not Biblical, it's Rabbinic, and we certainly don't require such a horrific thing today. And Rabbinic Judaism has room to stretch and grow and change with the times. So the inspirational message in Devarim 22 is the fact that traditional Judaism was able to evolve beyond such laws and that shows its worth.


  1. are you aware of the Maharals answer to the famous question of Tosafos as to why G-d needed to suspend the mountain over our heads and coerce acceptance of the Torah if we'd already accepted it of our own volition saying "we will do and we will hear"?

  2. No. I googled "Maharal har kegigis/kegigit" but couldn't find it. What did he say?

  3. As Matan Torah is the nuptials between G-d (the husband) and Israel (the wife) G-d played the role of the Divine rapist. He was forcing the ענין האישות on Israel. Not so much to coerce the wife as to force His own hand never to be allowed to "divorce" His wife.

    I'd be careful about ridiculing these psukim and relegating them to histories dust bin. TTBOMK per the Mahral they are the most effective rejoinder that we have to replacement theology.

  4. also Gur Aryeh on the posוk of בתחתית ההר

  5. the translation of eenah ענה is not humbled it means pained!
    also he was required to marry her, however she (or father as guardian) was never required to marry him so while in todays world the implied mindset is considered offensive and backwards the law itself is in no way offensive or unjust just irrelevant as it is very unlikely that a dasmals father today would invoke it(now the fathers guardianship is a different story it is definitely offensive by our standards but i would be harder pressed to say it is objectively so, there have been modern day cases of unscrupulous fathers abusing that law and causing alot of suffering)