Many laws, rules and regulations follow in this third parasha in a row with so many instructions. It is important to see the reasons why they are given. One of these reasons is to make a visible contrast with the surrounding world. We may find certain rules cruel toward women. But all Hashem does is make rules in the areas of relations and of martial engagement which restrict people in their freedom they think they have when they look around.
This is the center of Torah: making our lives much more “dull” and “even” than we like them to be or than we used to live them. It is like the taste of matzah representing the new life Hashem wants to give us. If we eat matzah after we ate a big chunk of spicy pizza the matzah tastes dull and saltless. But if we rinse our mouths and prepare for the Bread of Life it tastes new like never before. We even may never eat pizza again. It will clog our hearts.
The relationship with women in martial (army) and human circumstances and situations is presented. From a western point of view this may look woman unfriendly. But viewed from the time frame in which this is written it is woman protective. Other nations were cruel toward women who had not any right or protection against men. You found a woman, made love to her and killed her. No human rights were described ever before for women. The principle of the several laws is: elevate the position of women to a new level, higher than your surrounding world.
In the Haftorah portion of Isaiah chapter 54 a deep insight in the position of women is presented. The literal meaning is the restoration of the people of Israel. The deeper meaning is the restoration of women as their position is also treated with care in the Torah text. And another deeper meaning is that also men can recognize themselves in the text.
Let’s look at it: 4 Fear not, for you will not be ashamed. Be not confounded, for you will not be put to shame. For you will forget the shame of your childhood and you will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. 5 For your Creator is your husband – His name is LORD of army legions – and HE will be called your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, G-d of the whole earth. 6 For the Lord has called you when you were as a forsaken woman with grief in your spirit and when you were a wife in your youth, when you were rejected, says your G-d. 7 For a small moment I have left you behind, but with great mercies I will gather you.
The shame of the childhood in certain cases is caused by parents who abandon their children by not giving them the love they deserve. The widowhood is caused by the effect that lack of love gets easily compensated by proxy love: the victim of lovelessness chooses someone else to act as proxy lover. And/or: the victim chooses to oppress him or herself with the same rejection he or she received before. The role of those parents can stay for a long time and continuously take the place of G-d’s love. And so we become widows. And/or we shop from one proxy lover to the next and are left behind as widows and widowers, not being able to establish a love relationship with Hashem in the center.
So we need to make G-d our husband, that is: the husband of our people. Which means to leave father and mother as it says in Genesis 2:24, Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother and he shall cleave unto his wife. And they shall be one flesh. If some of us are able to leave the lovelessness of their parents and become “one”, united, with Hashem, we also leave the expectations and the rejections, the condemnations and the control of our parents when they are alive, even when they died a long time ago. And all of us need to leave our parents and exchange their care, or the lack thereof, with the care of our heavenly Father.
The texts of this week aim at our souls, restoring and healing, comforting and strengthening them. We will learn to feel comfortable when we become assertive. We will feel that our souls deserve love and not the lack thereof, acceptance and not rejection, encouragement and not discouragement. This is the level of quality Hashem wants us to live on.
Lion S. Erwteman, Rosh Kehilla of Beth Yeshua