Parsha Ki Teitzei: Defining Femininity and Masculinity in Judaism

August 24, 2023
BBYO Weekly Parsha


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Ki Teitzei is a challenging torah portion to read as a proud Jewish feminist, I cannot deny it. This week’s parsha reviews the laws of capturing women during times of war to be a wife, with or without her consent. Moreover, it poses questions and gives blunt statements regarding the shallowness of a man’s desires. Ki Teitzei acts as a clear foundation for defining femininity and masculinity in Judaism without over glorifying these two human aspects. It’s easy to make conclusions, but it’s important to look deeply into the topics that lead to immediate conclusions, such as this verse, “When you take the field against your enemies, and your G-d delivers them into your power and you take some of them captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you desire her and would take her [into your household] as your wife, you shall bring her into your household, and she shall trim her hair, pare her nails, and discard her captive’s garb. She shall spend a month’s time in your household lamenting her father and mother; after that you may come to her and thus become her husband, and she shall be your wife” (Deuteronomy 21:10-13).

While at first glance it may seem that this parsha is allowing - if not encouraging - blatant misogyny and sexual abuse. However, it is nowhere near as simple as that, and we also must remember the time frame that this was written in. It was written in a time when there were no rules or morality to war. Men could take as many women as they wanted without any regulations. This law given to us fights the lascivious culture of the time. 

This law might actually be the most important law regarding women’s dignity and even a great metaphor for relationships. The Torah acknowledges that men have a bellicose attitude and have desires. However, the Torah instructs a man to wait. He is not allowed to take a captured woman as his wife when she is beautiful; she must shave her hair and grow her nails long, which at the time was the complete opposite of conventional beauty standards. Only after the man sees this woman in her worst state may he take her to be his wife, and if he is no longer attracted to her he does not need to marry her. I actually love this teaching for two reasons:

  1. It balances masculinity and femininity. During times of war, many natural ethics and morals, such as not raping people, are disregarded. This law doesn’t deny this fact. However, it commands the man to get to know the woman before he takes her as a wife. This allows the two to form an emotional connection, removes the aspect of immediate lust, and gives the man time to not regret his actions. It also gives the woman time to communicate with the man and tell him if she does not want to be his wife. 
  2. It’s a great metaphor for relationships in general. The woman must cut her hair, grow her nails out, and spend time mourning her family before the man is permitted to marry her. If the man is not attracted to the woman anymore, he can walk away with no strings attached. This basically means: you have to know someone at their lowest before you can spend your life with them. 

We can easily get distracted by the flashiness of something new, whether it be a friendship or romantic relationship. Ki Teitzei teaches us to not get blinded by the joy of something new. We have to make it through thick and thin with another person before we truly know the depth of our relationship. This week's parsha doesn’t glorify the worst parts of life; it does teach us, though, that there is a way to make it through the tough times and come out on top. Ki Teitzei teaches us that good things are worth waiting for and to not judge a book by its cover. 


Shabbat Shalom, 

Heather Kletzky

Mazkirah, Rocky Mountain Region

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All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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