Double Mitzvah – Mishpatim

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Tamar Fox. Check out last week’s post in this series, Double Mitzvah – Yitro.

Rated PGIn this week’s mass of Torah laws, one decrees that a man who sleeps with a virgin (by persuasion or deception – but not rape) will be forced to marry her. It’s hard to feel good about reading this law. No matter how much the rabbis — ancient and contemporary — try to soften the blow, it cements a relationship built on nothing in particular aside from lust, persuasion and deception.

I prefer to think of this as a cautionary tale. On the one hand, I am infinitely glad that I don’t live in a world where sleeping with someone means you will be forced to marry them. On the other hand, maybe it’s a helpful reminder that the consequences of sleeping with someone can be a lot greater than we think. We’re lucky to live in a time of (relatively) cheap and (relatively) accessible birth control, but until very recently in human history, if you slept with someone there was the real chance that you might be bonded to them for life. That chance still exists now, though it’s much lower.

The Torah famously tells us that God’s vengeance will be carried out on the third and the fourth generations of those “who hate me” (Exodus 20:5). There is a strong focus on considering the consequences of our own actions and sins. Though a bit sad, this law of forced marriage to the seduced or deceived virgin is yet another way that the Torah codifies the ideas of mindfulness and of being responsible for the consequences of one’s actions and intentions.

How can this idea still be relevant to us in a culture where virginity is often no longer held to be a standard of piety? Should it matter that there is no concept of the deflowered man?

Share your thoughts, and wishing you a Shabbat Shalom!

Author of Jewrotica's Double Mitzvah column, Tamar Fox is a writer and editor in Philadelphia. She will try anything once, including open relationships, dating someone who is chalav yisrael, and going to Suriname.