Thursday, September 02, 2004

Ki Teitzei #2:

Ki Teitzei has the interesting case of motzi shem ra. The case: a man betrothes a woman, which means they have completed the first stage of a Jewish marriage (kiddushin). Then, they take the next step of marriage, nisuin, in which she leaves her father's house and moves in with him, and they consumate the marriage. He claims to have found her not a virgin and alleges that she committed adultery while she was married to him but still in her father's house (thus while betrothed). This is a capital offense if they can prove she did it, but if they show that the husband has spoken falsely, the judges lash him (the verse says they chastise him), plus he pays a fine of 100 shekel and may not divorce his wife in the future.
Devarim 22:13-21:
<>כִּי-יִקַּח אִישׁ, אִשָּׁה; וּבָא אֵלֶיהָ, וּשְׂנֵאָהּ.
וְשָׂם לָהּ עֲלִילֹת דְּבָרִים, וְהוֹצִא עָלֶיהָ שֵׁם רָע; וְאָמַר, אֶת-הָאִשָּׁה הַזֹּאת לָקַחְתִּי, וָאֶקְרַב אֵלֶיהָ, וְלֹא-מָצָאתִי לָהּ בְּתוּלִים.
וְלָקַח אֲבִי הַנַּעֲרָ, וְאִמָּהּ; וְהוֹצִיאוּ אֶת-בְּתוּלֵי הַנַּעֲרָ, אֶל-זִקְנֵי הָעִיר--הַשָּׁעְרָה.
וְאָמַר אֲבִי הַנַּעֲרָ, אֶל-הַזְּקֵנִים: אֶת-בִּתִּי, נָתַתִּי לָאִישׁ הַזֶּה לְאִשָּׁה--וַיִּשְׂנָאֶהָ.
וְהִנֵּה-הוּא שָׂם עֲלִילֹת דְּבָרִים לֵאמֹר, לֹא-מָצָאתִי לְבִתְּךָ בְּתוּלִים, וְאֵלֶּה, בְּתוּלֵי בִתִּי; וּפָרְשׂוּ, הַשִּׂמְלָה, לִפְנֵי, זִקְנֵי הָעִיר.
וְלָקְחוּ זִקְנֵי הָעִיר-הַהִוא, אֶת-הָאִישׁ; וְיִסְּרוּ, אֹתוֹ.
וְעָנְשׁוּ אֹתוֹ מֵאָה כֶסֶף, וְנָתְנוּ לַאֲבִי הַנַּעֲרָה--כִּי הוֹצִיא שֵׁם רָע, עַל בְּתוּלַת יִשְׂרָאֵל; וְלוֹ-תִהְיֶה לְאִשָּׁה, לֹא-יוּכַל לְשַׁלְּחָהּ כָּל-יָמָיו.
וְאִם-אֱמֶת הָיָה, הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה: לֹא-נִמְצְאוּ בְתוּלִים, לַנַּעֲרָ.
וְהוֹצִיאוּ אֶת-הַנַּעֲרָ אֶל-פֶּתַח בֵּית-אָבִיהָ, וּסְקָלוּהָ אַנְשֵׁי עִירָהּ בָּאֲבָנִים וָמֵתָה--כִּי-עָשְׂתָה נְבָלָה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, לִזְנוֹת בֵּית אָבִיהָ; וּבִעַרְתָּ הָרָע, מִקִּרְבֶּךָ.
"If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her,
and lay wanton charges against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say: 'I took this woman, and when I came nigh to her, I found not in her the tokens of virginity';
then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate.
And the damsel's father shall say unto the elders: 'I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her;
and, lo, he hath laid wanton charges, saying: I found not in thy daughter the tokens of virginity; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity.' And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city.
And the elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him.
And they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel; and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days.
But if this thing be true, that the tokens of virginity were not found in the damsel;
then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die; because she hath wrought a wanton deed in Israel, to play the harlot in her father's house; so shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee."
How certain details of the laws I described above (and others I did not) come from the text is a long story. As an example, כִּי-יִקַּח אִישׁ אִשָּׁה, "If any man take a wife" together with descriptions of her "playing the harlot in her father's house" presumably form the basis for her being betrothed at the time of her sin. (Also that we know from elsewhere that there is not capital punishment for a single unwed woman who sins in this way.) I'm not going to get into all of this here, but suffice it to say that everything here is subject to examination and explanation on a pshat and drash level in order to really understand it.

The punishment to the man is interesting. Would the woman wish to stay married to the man who tried to kill her in this way? Perhaps, and perhaps not. It might depend upon the times. However, I would like to suggest that an element of his punishment also serves as a deterrence to him bringing the false charges.

Lashes would certainly be an impediment. But consider. The man marries a woman and dislikes her. Why not just divorce her at this time? Why try to get her killed? I would suggest that if he divorces her, he would have to pay her ketuba. There is a financial motive at play. Thus, besides lashes, there are two further penalties. He has to pay a fine. Thus he knows he risks money if he does this. Further, he wants to be rid of this wife, and now he has the threat of being stuck with her in most instances for life. This would give pause to someone contemplating this course of action, and decide to either stick with the marriage or else take the path of divorce.

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