Iran, Pakistan, Ki Tetze

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Last week it was reported that six men were arrested in Pakistan for burying five women alive in a so-called “honor killing.” In this case, it seems, three of the younger women — ages 18, 16, and 14 — had been intent on marrying men of their own choices.

For that, they were tortured and buried alive along with two of their aunts.

We’ve gotten used to reading about these stories, which appear regularly in the American press now that all-things related to fundamentalist Islam are front page news.

So will we be more shocked or less when we read of similar acts in this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tetze?

Granted, there’s nothing directly analagous to the case in Pakistan in Ki Tetze, but we do have the case of a woman who is engaged to man “x” and sleeps with man “y” — and what happens:

Deut 22:23 If there is a young woman, a virgin, betrothed to a man, and a man finds her in the city, and lies with her;

24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them with stones that they die: the woman, because she didn’t cry out, being in the city; and the man, because he has humbled his neighbour’s wife

In addition, there’s the case of “motzi shem ra,” i.e. the man who claims that the woman he married is not a virgin. In this case, the father of the bride brings the “betulim” — the bloodied sheets that would prove her virginity — and the man who made the false claim is fined.

If the claim is true, the woman is stoned to death.

These texts inspire mixed feelings for me. On the one hand, we don’t carry out “justice” this way anymore. On the other hand, these laws are found in our holiest of books.

And, of course, I do wonder about those segments of our community who take the Torah more literally and the possibility of a state run by Jewish law more seriously.

Is killing a woman for her sexual choices that many steps removed from beating up a woman for socializing with men?

Posted on September 11, 2008

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