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DEUTERONOMY — 21:11 beautiful

DEUT1038 Despite its admiration of beauty, Judaism never developed a beauty cult similar to that of the Greeks and Romans. The struggle waged against paganism and its statuary motivated the strict biblical prohibition of some forms of plastic art (Exodus 20:4). The Judaic attitude to feminine beauty is somewhat ambivalent. On the one hand, there was an instinctive impulse to sing its praises in poetic phraseology. The biblical Song of Songs attests to that inspiration. Yet the Song of Songs Is atypical among the ancient sacred and secular Jewish literary works. Indeed, had it not been for the Rabbinical allegorical interpretation of the Songs of Songs as depicting a romance between God and his people, the book would never have been included in the canon. Feminine beauty was greatly admired, but its role in provoking lust, a cardinal sin, imposed a moral restraint upon the free expression of poets and singers. The biblical law regarding a pretty heathen captive of war [this verse] warned of the potential power of beautiful women to defeat religious scruples.


DEUTERONOMY — 21:11 captive

DEUT1040 Carry out the laws of a non-Jewish woman taken captive in war. Our Sages teach, “Only in recognition of the evil inclination does the Torah permit marriage to the beautiful woman taken captive in war.” That is, because a soldier's state of mind during wartime is slightly crazed, if the Torah would forbid such marriages, the soldiers would ignore the prohibition and take such women anyway. The Torah therefore requires that first the man take her to his home, where for thirty days she mourns her parents and does other things that will make her much less appealing to him. Hopefully, by the time the month passes, she will appear disgusting in his eyes, and no longer will he be attracted to her. His passion for her will die down and no longer will he want her as a wife.


DEUTERONOMY — 21:13 thirty

DEUT1043 Respect for man also imposes a respect for his faith and religious practices. The rabbis asserted that "the righteous people of all nations have a share in the hereafter (Tosefta, Sanhedrin 13). Judaism was tolerant of all religions except paganism, with which it was incompatible. At the time when ancient Judea was a sovereign state and the nation had the jurisdiction to enforce its laws within the borders of its country, the practice of idolatry was proscribed. However, Jews never entertained a desire to forcibly root out hedonism in other countries. There were some occasions when, for humane reasons, the practice of idolatry was tolerated even in Israel. A captive pagan woman, brought home by a Jewish soldier, was permitted to continue her heathen worship for thirty days [this verse, Yevamot 48b]. According to Maimonides (Moreh Nevuchim 3:41), this dispensation was motivated by consideration for the plight of the captive woman in a desire to provide her with the solace that you might arrive from practicing her ancestral faith. At the end of thirty days, if the soldier had a change of heart, the woman was free to return to her home, without having been forced to renounce her faith (Nachmanides, this verse).


DEUTERONOMY — 21:14 sell

DEUT1045 Do not sell such a woman [i.e. a non-Jewish woman taken captive in war]. Key concept: To teach decency, as well as all other positive traits, so that we cultivate these traits and thereby make ourselves worthy of Heaven's blessings. Hashem, Who wants to bestow good upon us, desires that we be free of negative character traits, so that we will be worthy of His blessing. Without question, it is coarse and ugly to sell a woman into slavery after having had relations with her.


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