Ki Tetzei

l'ilui nishmat R' Avraham ben Yona Ya'akov

“You shall take her for yourself as a wife” (21:11)

The Talmud in Kiddushin (21b) says regarding this marriage: The Torah spoke (and gave this leniency) only to a man’s evil urge. If it would not be permitted he would come to marry her anyway in a forbidden manner.
We can ask on the usage of the word ‘only’, which is not usually used in this context. It is coming to teach a limited leniency because of certain factors. The normal Talmudic word to mean this is ‘because’. For example, ‘because she wouldn’t be able to remarry otherwise, they were lenient’ (Yevamot 88a); ‘because she should be attractive to her future spouse’ (Ketuvot 84a); because the land of Israel should be settled’ (Gitin 8b); ‘because he needs something to live on’ (ibid. 59a); ‘because people need an option of repentance’ (Bava Kamma 94b) and many other such cases.
Here the Talmud should have said ‘because of the evil urge’. However our text reads ‘the Torah spoke only because of the evil urge’, which is too wordy, and it means to say something specific.
Perhaps we can explain this use of the words based on the story in Yevamot (63a): Rabbi Chiya’s wife was very cruel to him. Despite this, whenever he would find something that he knew she would like he would purchase it and give it to her. Rav asked him, ‘why do you do this, since she is so cruel to you?’ He replied, ‘it is enough that they raise our children (in the proper way) and save us from sin’ (from thoughts of sin – Rashi).
It is clear from here that the purpose of married life is twofold. To raise children in the proper way, and to save the husband from thoughts of sin.
Later in our portion, in verse 18, it explains the laws of the rebellious son. Our Sages said about this (Sanhedrin 107a), ‘why does the portion of the rebellious son follow the section of the wife captured in war (which is the section we began writing about)? To teach you that anyone who marries a woman captured in war will eventually have a rebellious son.
With this we can understand that in every marriage there are two purposes – to raise children in the way of the Torah, and to be saved from thoughts of sin and the trials of the evil urge. However, in the marriage to the woman captured in war there is only one goal – to be saved from the evil urge. In this case the purpose is not to raise children and to educate them in the proper way, since the Torah says that eventually they will have a rebellious son.
In this way we can understand the intention of the Talmud that we cited in the beginning: ‘The Torah spoke only to a man’s evil urge’. In other words, being saved from sin. But without the second goal of raising children in the correct way, since the man knows that this will not happen. It is decreed from the Torah that his son will be rebellious, as we have explained.
We also find a practical halacha in this explanation. Since the Torah spoke only to a man’s evil urge, we understand that if a person is not being attacked by the evil urge and wishes to marry a wife in order to build a home as is the way of the world, he may not capture a wife in war. The entire leniency is only for someone who is being attacked by the evil urge, as is implicit in the verse “and he craves her”.
In the Torah Temima we discussed the basic reason for this leniency of a woman captured in way, ‘that if we don’t permit her, he will marry her in a forbidden manner’, as cited above. If that is true, then we have undermined the whole purpose of mitzvot which is to distance a person from sin. A person could always say ‘better that I do it in a permitted way than in a forbidden manner’. This is certainly not correct. Why in this case did the Torah permit something because of the evil urge, more than in any other mitzvah where the same reason may apply?
The answer is that this leniency is given only during the time of war, so that a man should not cause himself pain, and weaken his battle abilities. For this reason, if soldiers enter a town and don’t find kosher meat available they are permitted to eat non kosher meat (Chullin 17a). Rambam also brings this law in chapter 8 of the ‘Laws of Kings and their Wars’. But during peace time and in places where there is peace there is no basis for this leniency for the reason of ‘better to do it in a permitted way’. This is obvious and clear.