Friday, September 12, 2008

Shadal on The Betrothed Naarah

Another interesting Shadal in Ki Teitzei, on perek 22, about the laws of the naarah hameorasa. There are all sorts of features that a pashtan like him would like to take literally, but on the other hand, this would then be contrary to halacha, as well perhaps to one's ethical sensibilities -- halachically guided ethical sensibilities, perhaps. Up front, his peirush, and afterwards, my summary.

יז ] ופרשו השמלה : דברים ככתבן (דברי רבי אליעזר בן יעקב כתובות מ"ו ע" א) אם כן איך ייתכן שיוציא אדם שם רע , מאחר שיודע שהשמלה מוכחת ? אבל כוונת התורה להרחיק שלא יהיה איש מוציא שם רע על אשתו , והאמינה ראיית הדמים , אף על פי שאולי יהיו מזוייפים , כדי לתת שלום בבית ולהציל ממיתה נערה שזינתה בבית אביה , אשר לפי התורה אין לה עונש , רק לפי מראה עיני אנשי הדורות ההם , אם היתה נישאת בחזקת בתולה , היתה זו מרמה שחייבים עליה מיתה , והתחכמה התורה להמתיק המידה הקשה הזאת בצוותה שנאמין לדמים , אעפ"י שהיא ראיה שיש אחריה פיקפוק .

[ כא ] לזנות בית אביה : לפי הפשט זינתה בבית אביה קודם אירוסין , ואחר שזינתה היה לה להודיעו שאיננה בתולה , והנה רימתה אותו בדבר שהיה גדול כל כך בעיניהם בימים ההם שהיה משפטה למות . ואם כדברי רבותינו ( ספרי כי תצא פיסקא ר " מ ) היה לו לומר לנאוף . ( עיין בכורי העתים תקפ " ז עמוד ר"ב ). ועוד הנה אם יש שם עדים שראוה מנאפת , אין ספק גם כן שראו עם מי ניאפה , והנה התורה לא הזכירה דבר על אודות הנואף , והיה לה לומר שגם את הנואף יהרוגו .

And so Shadal would like to take the spreading out of the sheet literally. (Indeed, the Muslims have such a practice.) And as such, the false accuser would surely be immediately exposed, so knowing there is this evidence, why would he make this charge? The answer is that, for reasons to become clear, the Torah does not want him to be laying out this charge. Furthermore, perhaps the blood is fake. The gemara speaks of instances in which she smuggles in stains in order to make it appear that there was dam besulim. So how can we lay this punishment upon him, based on possibly forged evidence. Again, Shadal claims that it is because the Torah does not want him to be laying the charge against her.

Why not? Well, this intersects with his second point. Shadal would claim that the naarah who had intercourse in her beit aviha was not a betrothed maiden, such that it was adultery, as per Chazal. For then it would say lin`of rather than liznos. Rather, she was an unmarried girl. And I would add the problem that there does not seem to be a death penalty elsewhere in Torah for a single girl who was seduced. Perhaps one can construct that the difference there is that she is not then trying to trick someone about whether she is a virgin or not. But without this explanation, it is hard to understand why a penuya should receive the death penalty here. Shadal has a further problem that if it means witnesses, then the witnesses also presumably saw the adulterer, and then the Torah should mention the execution of adulterer as well.

Shadal's answer is that the Torah does not want her to be executed. It is rather the tribal custom of those backwards people. And rather than declaring that there is no death penalty in such a case, the Torah is surreptitiously imposing legal conditions such that it is unlikely to ever come to pass. Thus, the husband will be reluctant to accuse, in case he was wrong, or in case she forged the evidence. But if he does, then the Torah will not be able to do anything as the people of that generation, with their value system in place, condemns to death a single woman who lied to her husband about the status of her virginity. But the Torah itself does not command it.

I could actually see this as plausible, just looking at modern-day Arab/Muslim culture, and the virginity tests and the honor killings. Considering that many dinim in the Torah are easily read as measures of reformation, we can read this in a similar vein, moving the Jewish culture towards a more civilized society as idealized by the Torah.

However, I have reasons to doubt this explanation. And if we remove the explanations, we could either revert to Chazal's explanation, or else not revert and be left with some difficult questions. My reasons to doubt this resolution:
1) There is nothing explicit in the pasuk to suggest that this is just what is happening -- וְהוֹצִיאוּ אֶת-הַנַּעֲרָ אֶל-פֶּתַח בֵּית-אָבִיהָ, וּסְקָלוּהָ אַנְשֵׁי עִירָהּ בָּאֲבָנִים וָמֵתָה -- rather than being a prescription for action.

2) כִּי-עָשְׂתָה נְבָלָה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, לִזְנוֹת בֵּית אָבִיהָ would seem to be a value judgement, that she did a nevalah.

3) There was the suggestion that the evil deed in the minds of the backward folk of that day was lying about the status of her virginity, rather than the intercourse outside the bounds of marriage. But כִּי-עָשְׂתָה נְבָלָה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, לִזְנוֹת בֵּית אָבִיהָ suggests that the nevalah was the zenus rather than the lying.

4) Finally, וּבִעַרְתָּ הָרָע מִקִּרְבֶּךָ certainly sounds like instruction; and it also seems to represent a value judgement, that this is indeed evil, which should be eliminated.

Update: See also Vesom Sechel's take on the issue.


Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Please take a look at my post on this very issue:

Anonymous said...

This Rashi is very strange to me
עד היום הזה - שמעתי שאותו היום שנתן משה ספר התורה לבני לוי כמ"ש בפ' וילך ויתנה אל הכהנים בני לוי באו כל ישראל לפני משה ואמרו לו משה רבינו אף אנו עמדנו בסיני וקבלנו את התורה וניתנה לנו ומה אתה משליט את בני שבטך עליה ויאמרו לנו יום מחר לא לכם ניתנה לנו ניתנה ושמח משה על הדבר ועל זאת אמר להם היום הזה נהיית לעם וגו' היום הזה הבנתי שאתם דבקים וחפצים במקום
First of all "I heard"? Second the reason Moshe was Happy is Because the Jews Where Jealous of the Levim, so essentially now you have become a Nation because of in fighting and bickering and I thought it was supposed to be "Kish Echad Blev Echad" apparently the Warring Chassidim have it right?


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