Parshat Ki Seitzei with Rabbi Tzvi Alyesh

Recently, the Torah in Parshat Ki Seitzei teaches us about a fascinating law and the subject of appropriate moments for leniency. First, let us put the story in context. Unfortunately, there will be times in our history when we will need to go to battle to fight enemies who seek our demise and want to annihilate us. They leave us with no option except to retaliate and go to war. Such campaigns are always highly challenging; the conditions of war are brutal. Often there is insufficient food, sleeping conditions are uncomfortable at best, and comrades may be injured or killed. War is never simple or easy for any nation. Even today, we continue to witness the terrible casualties and cruelties that the Ukranians have endured that affect all its citizens. 

During the height of battle, nations have often used different war strategies to get the opposing country to buckle under the pressure. And sometimes they went to perverted lengths to ensure victory. One such tactic related in the Torah, when Jews were engaged in battle, was the enemy sending out there woman in an exceedingly immodest fashion to entice the soldiers. We know the Torah has very strict rules with regards to illicit relationships! It is a sin on the highest level, and certainly to marry such a woman who tempted our soldiers at a very vulnerable moment seems as if it would have been absolutely forbidden under all circumstances. Therefore, it is astonishing that the Torah actually permits this marriage within certain parameters. It is allowed if there is a thirty-day process in which the woman must sit and mourn her family members who died in war, and she is not allowed to beautify herself (the goal – to decrease the man’s desire to marry her). However, if he still wants to wed her after the thirty day period is up, it is permitted. It appears that the Torah is tolerating the inappropriate moral behavior of the soldier. It is safe to say that this is a fascinating law, especially in an area in which we are extremely careful. 

How are we to understand this seeming paradox?

Rashi, the foremost commentator on the Chumash, offers an idea critical to understanding the human psyche. G-D, in His infinite wisdom, understood that sometimes humans are limited. Of course, the bar for proper behavior should be set high, so that people can be challenged to change and grow. However, it is crucial to know where the cutoff point is. Therefore, G-D understood the level of desire a man might have had on the battlefield. If a way was not offered to make it permissible to the man, the soldier would likely be led to disobey and sadly sin. When it comes to Torah laws, only G-D has the power to change and recreate. 

Our mission here in this world is to emulate G-D, learning how to implement this lesson into our own lives will make us so much better. Understanding when a child, friend, relative, or colleague needs to be cut a bit of slack is vital. In human relations, we often have to compromise, or there are no winners!! Of course, in matters of Jewish law a Torah leader must always be consulted, but in human relationships tolerance and understanding are often the key to ultimate success.

Our wish is that everyone is granted the blessing to understand, on a deep level, the feelings and emotions of those around us, so we can encourage them to reach their full potential, and at the same time to be understanding when a recess period or vacation is needed!

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