Shabbat Ki Teytsey

Candles - September 1st @ 7:09pm
Havdalah - September 2 @ 8.01pm

Rape is a horrible crime that is still prevalent in every society. It is not just violence against another person, though that is bad enough. But its psychological impact can affect a person’s ability to relate to others, destroy confidence, undermine a sense of security, and radically alter a person’s life. Rape affects both sexes, its use against women is a tool of war, conquest, and oppression.

In many societies today, a raped woman becomes a victim twice. She is blamed, regardless, and often isolated, rejected, and even murdered to cover the so-called shame of the family. This notion of shame, face, reputation is a pernicious artificial argument that simply indulges primitive male egos.

This week the Torah dwells on cases of rape and seduction. And the lies that are told to cover up actions that ruin people’s lives. Too often judges, police, and public opinion do not see rape for the evil it is.

The Torah distinguishes between rape in a city and rape in the fields. In the city, says the Torah, there are people all around and surely a victim can cry out, and the police or someone in the neighborhood can come to her rescue. Whereas in the countryside there may be no one around to help. As with all Torah laws, one must not take it superficially. The Oral Law clarifies. When the Torah refers to crimes committed at night time or daytime, it is not talking literally but figuratively. Something open and brazen, as opposed to secret and hidden. Field and city are metaphors.

So here the city means there are grounds for doubt, the need to look for more evidence before jumping to a conclusion. The field means circumstances where it is obvious a woman has been forced.

The Torah goes on to say that “where a woman has been raped in (in the field, where she is presumed innocent), she is not in any way guilty. It just like when a man overpowers another and kills him, so is this case.” Remarkably, the Torah compares rape (as opposed to seduction or consensuality) as murder. This was so far ahead of its time that in most societies, three thousand years later, they still have not caught up morally.