21 Issue #2 Parashas Ki Teitzei
The Eishes Yefas Toar and the
Torah’s Perspective on the Yetzer

Tani Finkelstein (’17)

At the outset of this week’s parashah, we
find the baffling laws of the eishes yefas toar, the
beautiful captive of war. The Torah describes the
unusual, intricate processes one must go through
in order to be permitted to this woman; one must
shave her head, grow out her nails, remove her
nice clothing, make her cry over her parents for a
month, and then, finally then, she is all yours.
Besides the moral concerns one may be inclined to
raise on this ordeal, there is another glaring
question: why in the first place are we letting a
man follow his desires after a captive woman from
another nation? Isn’t the Torah all about not going
“acharei levavchem ve’acharei eineechem?” Why would
the Torah allow you to give into such an
inappropriate desire?
The gemara in Kiddushin 21b comes along
and explains everything. It says that the reason
behind this strange law is that “lo diberah Torah ela
keneged yeitzer hara,” the Torah addresses the evil
inclination. What does the gemara mean? Our
original question still remains: why is the Torah
allowing us to give into the yeitzer hara by the eishes
yefas toar?
I believe that to answer this question, and
get a better understanding of this principle we
need to look at Bereishis. The Torah says: “vayyar
Hashem ki raba ra’as ha’adam ba’aretz vekhol yeitzer
machshevos libo rak ra kol hayyom,and Hashem saw
how wicked man’s actions were, and how the

‫פרשת כי תצא‬

14 Elul 5776

thoughts of his heart were only wicked all day.”
(Genesis 6:5) Interestingly, two perakim later, the
Torah says:
‫ֽא־א ֹסִף ְל ַק ֵ֨לּל‬
֠ ‫ֶת־רי ַח ַהנִּיח ֹ ַ֒ח ו ַ֨יּ ֹאמֶר י ְק ֹ֜ ָוק אֶל־ל ִ֗בּוֹ ֹל‬
֣ ֵ ‫“ ַו ָיּ ַ֣רח י ְקֹו ָ֘ק א‬
‫ָאָד֛ם ַ ֖רע ִמנְּע ָ ֻ֑ריו ְוֹלֽא־‬
ָ ‫ע֤ וֹד אֶת־הָ ֽאֲדָ מָה֙ ַבּעֲב֣ וּר הָ ֽאָדָ֔ ם ֠ ִכּי ֵי֣צֶר ֵל֧ב ה‬
(Genesis 8:21) ”‫ֲשׁר ע ִָשֽׂיתִ י‬
֥ ֶ ‫ל־חי כַּ ֽא‬
֖ ַ ‫א ִֹס֥ף ע֛ וֹד ְלהַכּ֥ וֹת אֶת־ ָכּ‬

Hashem decided to not punish man as he
had earlier, because the inclination of man’s heart
is wicked from its youth. What changed here, to
radically alter Hashem’s perspective on the
wickedness of man and how he should be
punished? After exploring and analyzing some of
the issues of the gemara’s principle of “diberah Torah
keneged yeitzer hara,” we will be able to answer both
of our aforementioned questions.
Rashi and Tosafos debate on Kidushin 21b
the extent of the ‘leniency’ the Torah really gives
regarding laws of the eishes yefas toar. Rashi implies
that during the war, it is prohibited to engage in
relations with the eishes yefas toar, and she is not
permissible to her captor until he has fulfilled the
process mentioned in the pesukim. Tosafos take
issue with this understanding, since after all, the
principle is “diberah Torah keneged yeitzer hara!” If
the Torah made one wait to be intimate with the
eishes yefas toar until after the war, there would be
no yeitzer hara for the woman! Rather, Rabbeinu
Tam explains, that one may have relations with the
eishes yefas toar during the war itself, before the
whole procedure, which is when one’s desire is
strongest. In fact, Tosafos point out that this
argument also occurs in the Yerushalmi (Makkos
2:6) among amoraim, with Rav Yochanan siding
with Rashi, and Rav siding with Tosafos.
Essentially, Tosafos take a very broad view on the

‫ שמע קולנו‬
Vol. 21 Issue #2
principle of “diberah Torah keneged yeitzer hara,”
geder happens to be talmud Torah), while at the
taking it quite literally – the Torah plainly, simply
same time, in certain extenuating instances,
allows one to indulge in their desire for the eishes
acknowledges that at the end of the day, “yeitzer
yefas toar.
leiv ha’adam ra meneurav” and doesn’t punish us for
To better explain Rav Yochanan and
occasional indulgences (“lo hosif od lehakos es kol chai
Rashi’s opinion, and resolve Tosafos’ challenge
ka’asher asisi”). This is the immense tafkid the Torah
from the apparent meaning of the principle of
places upon us. As Chazal say in Avos 4:1, “eizehu
“diberah Torah keneged yeitzer hara,” we must turn
ggibor, hakoveish es yitzro,” true strength lies in the
the pages of the gemara to Kiddushin 40a, where
ability to put the will of Hashem over our heart’s
an even more startling concession is granted to
desires, being true ovdei Hashem.
one’s inappropriate desires. The gemara records
the statement of Rebbe Elaee haZakein:
O Captive! My Captive!
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‫ ילך למקום שאין מכירין‬,‫“אם רואה אדם שיצרו מתגבר עליו‬
,‫ וילבש שחורים ויתכסה שחורים ויעשה כמו שלבו חפץ‬,‫אותו‬

,‫ואל יחלל שם שמים בפרהסיא‬
If one sees his evil inclination overpowering him, he

should go to a place where no one recognizes him, wear black
clothing, and cover himself in black, and do as his heart
desires; he shall not defile the name of Heaven in public.”

This gemara seems to permit a

disgusting, lowly act, which runs contradictory to
everything the Torah stands for. However,
Tosafos cite the understanding of Rabbeinu
Chananeil in Mo’eid Katan 17a that this gemara is
not permitting one to give into his desires, but
rather is setting boundaries for one’s desire to be
pacified and evaded. Through one’s wearing of
black clothing and seclusion, the strength of his
desires will be decreased. In fact, Rashi in
Chagigah 16a also takes this approach. This
explains and elucidates Rashi’s opinion on the
eishes yefas toar. Rashi is taking a totally different
approach on the principle of “diberah Torah keneged
yeitzer hara,” believing it to mean quite the
opposite of Tosafos’ understanding: the Torah
recognizes the strength of one’s desire for the
eishes yefas toar and therefore erects preventive
measures for one to specifically not fall into the
trap of these desires. By going through the brutal
procedure which the Torah entails, one’s desire
for her will surely dissipate. With this explanation,
the answers to our original questions are clear.
The Torah creates gedarim for us not to indulge
effusively in our heart’s immoral desires (one big

Ari Englander (’17)
Rashi writes that passuk yud in this week’s
parashah, parashas Ki Seitzei, which enumerates the
laws of female captives of war, refers to a milchemes
reshus—a war which is not required by law, but
one that is fought to expand the borders of Eretz
Yisrael. Rashi proves this from the fact that our
passuk mentions the taking of captives, which
certainly would not occur in the case of an
obligatory war, as in such a war, none from the
enemy are left alive, as the Torah commands “lo
sechayyeh kol neshama, you shall not allow any soul
to live.” (Deuteronomy 20:16) However, Rashi’s
comment here seems to be problematic for a
number of reasons:
a. “Lo sechayyeh” (Ibid.) refers to the
conquest of Eretz Yisrael. Yet, according to
Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 5:1) there is another
type of obligatory war, in which there is no mitzvah
to completely wipe out the enemy, namely, a
defensive war against an adversary that attacks
Yisrael. In such a war, it would be permissible to
take captives, so how can Rashi conclude that our
passuk is referring to a milchemes reshus, merely
from the fact that it includes the taking of captives?
b. And at the literal level, our passuk does
not actually refer to the taking of captives from the
enemy population, but rather the seizure of those
whom the enemy had captured in a previous war
(“veshavisa shivyo, and you take his captives”).

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‫ שמע קולנו‬

(Deuteronomy 21:10) Thus, it appears that our
passuk could indeed refer to a war against the seven
nations who inhabited Eretz Canaan, even though
the 7 nations themselves must be obliterated in
their entirety (“lo sechayyeh”) (Deuteronomy
20:16), people from other nations whom are held
captive by the seven nations would not have to be
killed. So how can Rashi prove that our passuk is
referring to a milchemes reshus from the words
“veshavisa shivyo?” (Deuteronomy 21:10)
c. Aside from the issue that Rashi appears
to have no definitive proof that our passuk refers to
a milchemes reshus, it appears much more likely—al
derekh peshat—that our passuk would be speaking
of an obligatory war. For, at the point in time
when this section was taught by Mosheh, the
Jewish people were about to fight the obligatory
wars required to conquer Eretz Yisrael. Ergo, it
seems far more logical that Moshe would be
addressing a matter that pertained to the
immediate situation at hand, rather than discussing
laws of a milchemes reshus, which would not be
possible until many years later, after the
completion of the conquering of the land, as
outlined by Rambam.
These apparent issues can be solved by the
following: passuk yud stresses “ki seitzei
lammilchamah, if you go out to war.”
(Deuteronomy 21:10) I.e., in a situation in which
the Jewish people are settled in their homeland,
and they actively go out of that land for the
purpose of conquering other nations. It could not
refer to the Jewish people’s situation at that time,
in the desert, which is not an inhabited land from
which one goes out to war. Therefore, Rashi
concluded that the passuk here is referring to a
milchemes reshus.
However, this leaves us with a new
problem: the words “veshavisa shivyo” (Ibid.) now
seem to be superfluous. It is obvious that we are
speaking of a case in which captives are taken,
from the subsequent passuk “vera’isa bashivyah, and

Vol. 21 Issue #2

you see among the captives.” (Deuteronomy
21:10) Therefore, Rashi continues to explain that
the extra words “veshavisa shivyo” (Deuteronomy
21:10) come to permit the capture of Canaanim
who are themselves captives of the nation that is
being conquered during this milchemes reshus, even
though they are from the seven nations which we
are normally obligated to obliterate
Wayward, Rebellious, and Dead

Yonatan Chudnoff (’19)
In this week's parashah, one of the most
famous concepts is introduced – the bein soreir
umoreh, a wayward and rebellious son. The Torah
begins to define a bein soreir umoreh by stating that
it’s a child who doesn't listen to his parents; the
gemara continues, adding that this child is of a
specific age when he steals money with which to
purchase and subsequently guzzle meat and wine.
Subsequently, the Torah describes the process of
death that this son receives – Hashem says the
parents of the bein soreir umoreh take their child to
the city gates to tell the elders that their son is
rebellious. “Urgamuhu kol anshei iro ba’avanim
vameit, then all the people of the city shall pelt him
to death with stones.” (Deuteronomy 21:21) How
can the Torah say that the parents should just kill
this child? He hadn’t even committed a sin which
typically necessitates the death penalty! Why is
Hashem instructing us to kill this otherwise
innocent kid? Does this child not have the
potential, like every other adolescent, to become
a great person, despite his wrongdoings?
The sixth perek of masekhet Sanhedrin is
called bein soreir umoreh, as it begins by discussing
the intricacies and various laws concerning this
interesting topic. Throughout the perek, the gemara
discusses what actually defines a bein soreir umoreh.
On 72a (Sanhedrin) Rebbi Yossi asks in a baraysa:
just because this youngster ate some meat and

‫ שמע קולנו‬
Vol. 21 Issue #2
drank some wine, we kill him? That seems totally
to attain the status of ‘bein soreir umoreh,’ that the
irrational and incongruous with general halakhah!
gemara on 71a (Ibid.) even says that there never
He answers, saying that we kill the bein soreir
was a bein soreir umoreh, and
umoreh on the premise of what he is going to do in
never will be. There are
the future. We aren’t judging him on what he is
simply too many obscene
presently doing, but rather on his subsequent
qualifications for it to ever
actions if he keeps up this behavior. The gemara
occur. While theoretical, it
says that if we don’t kill this child now, he will end
is an incredible concept and
up exhausting all of his parents’ money due to his
lesson which the Torah
meat and wine addiction, and will turn to the
teaches us. We are able to
streets, stand on the corners, and steal from
kill someone because of
people in order to get money to fuel his addictions.
what he will do in the
As a direct result of his actions as described above,
future. It may seem
he is going to fulfill a life of crime; in essence the
obscene, yet it does make
Torah is protecting him from himself. It is an
sense. It is clear that the
incredible concept that the Torah prescribes death
aveirot which he will do by
here, on the basis of his future.
continuing his ways are so
This idea that we judge someone based on
bad that it's worth it to end
what he is going to do also appears elsewhere,
his path before he is able to
including daf 73a (Ibid.) when the mishnah gives a
do them. Through the case
list of people one may and may not to prevent
of the bein soreir umoreh, the amount of care and
from doing an aveirah.
love Hashem has for us so we won't commit
Returning to the initial question that was
terrible aveirot is blatantly evident. May we all be
asked above: does a bein soreir umoreh have
able to fortify ourselves not to sin, and thereby
potential? The answer, as we have seen, is
bring in the mashiach.
seemingly no. It is so preposterous and fantastical
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!‫שבת שלום‬