This week's parsha
Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Accessing the Hidden Love
In 1796, a new book on Jewish philosophy was printed and ready for distribution. It was written by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad branch of Chassidism, and in his humility he titled it Likutei Amarim, "a compilation of sayings." Many simply called it "the Tanya" (the first word of the opus). The Tanya quickly gained immense popularity. The first edition published 15,000 copies. The next year a second printing, with 5,000 copies, and a year later a third printing with 20,000 copies came off the printing press. To date the Tanya has seen thousands of printings and ever-increasing popularity.
It stands out very prominently in this week's Torah reading: fifty-five consecutive verses of nightmarish misery and torture, all destined to befall the Jewish people when they will be exiled from their land because of their sins. Many of the curses are so appalling that they are difficult to read. Indeed, the Baal Koreh (public reader of the Torah in the synagogue) is expected to read these verses quickly and in a quieter voice than usual. Astoundingly, these maledictions are included in Moses' parting words to the nation he loved so much, whom he lovingly shepherded for forty difficult years.
The Inner Woman of Beautiful Form
One of the most puzzling commandments in the Torah is the commandment regarding the “woman of beautiful form,” which opens this week's Torah portion. The Torah states that when an Israelite goes to war and captures a beautiful gentile woman, and he desires her, he may marry her providing that he follows the conditions stipulated by the Torah.
When you go out to war against your enemies, and the L‑rd, your G‑d, will deliver him into your hands, and you take his captives. And you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you desire her, you may take [her] for yourself as a wife. You shall bring her into your home, and she shall shave her head and let her nails grow. And she shall remove the garment of her captivity from upon herself, and stay in your house, and weep for her father and her mother for a full month. After that, you may be intimate with her and possess her, and she will be a wife for you. And it will be, if you do not desire her, then you shall send her away wherever she wishes, but you shall not sell her for money. You shall not keep her as a servant, because you have afflicted her.
This law seems strange. Isn't the purpose of the Torah to lead us toward greater moral heights, to elevate us to a life of spirituality and holiness? Yet, this commandment seems to give permission for man to follow his most animalistic instincts?