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Home » Ki Tetze, Questions of Ethics

Ki Teze: Victimizing The Rape Victim?

Submitted by on August 23, 2009 – 4:32 amNo Comment | 2,515 views


Is it true that the Torah requires rape victims to marry their rapists and the only punishment to the rapist is a fifty Shekel fine paid to the victim’s father?

Actually the reverse is true; the victim is not required to marry the rapist, the rapist is required to marry his victim. To better understand the justice and compassion of this law let us review it together.

The Rape Victim

“If a man finds a virgin girl who was not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found. The man who lay with her shall give fifty [shekels of] silver to the girl’s father, and she shall become his wife, because he violated her. He shall not send her away all the days of his life.” (1)

On the surface this Biblical passage seems to support our earlier contention, but a more careful analysis, as supplied by the Talmud, will reveal a different story.

The Torah writes, “The man who lay with her shall give fifty [shekels].” Noting that the Torah is usually economical with its words the Talmud is surprised by the seeming redundancy of the words, “who lay with her.” We already know what this man did, why is it repeated? From this the Talmud deduces that the fifty Shekel fine is merely a portion of his obligation; it is the portion he pays for the pleasure he took from laying with her. But this does not compensate her for her pain, indignity and loss. The Talmud thus infers that in addition to this fine the rapist is required to indemnify her for the indignity she suffered, the pain she endured and the loss she incurred. (2)

In addition to compensation the rapist is required to marry his victim. The Talmud explains that this obligation rests on the rapist, not the victim.  Should she choose to be his wife he is required to marry and support her. Furthermore, he is not permitted to divorce her without her consent. She, on the other hand, is under no obligation to marry him.

In the contemporary age women have reached a state of independence that enables them to provide and fend for themselves. Today it is hardly conceivable that a woman would choose to marry her rapist. However, in the not so distant past women depended on their husbands for protection and support. An unmarried woman was alone in the world; vulnerable, hungry and poor.

The rapist thus perpetrated a double crime against his victim; he violated her dignity and compromised her future; with the stigma of rape upon her it would now be exceedingly difficult for her to marry. victiminzing the rape victim - innerstreamThe Torah, in its infinite compassion, is concerned not only with the pain she suffered in the past, but with her vulnerability in the future. Should she find herself without prospects for marriage, and should she be willing to accept him, the Torah requires the rapist to marry her.

To some women this was an attractive proposition and if they desired it the rapist was required to oblige. To other women the very idea was repulsive and they simply refused the offer. Either way, far from victimizing the rape victim, the woman was financially compensated for the damages caused by the rape. (3)

The Soul

An eternal Torah must be relevant at all times. If indeed women today would not countenance the idea of marrying their attackers then this law has become obsolete. However, though its legal aspects are no longer practiced its spiritual and psychological elements are still very much relevant.

The innocent little girl that is violated in this passage exists within each of us. She is the pure, wholesome childhood into which we were born. The burdens of the world were not yet upon us and we had not been corrupted by the hardships and temptations of life.

This little girl grew up in an environment that neither nurtured nor protected her virtue; on the contrary she was exposed to all manner of temptation. Within us the little girl cringed every time we faced a potential violation of her innocence. Yet there was a harder voice within us that drove us to experiment. It can’t hurt to try it just once, urged the harder voice in its quest to rape our innocence. But the little girl objected, I don’t want to tread that path, she cried, who knows where it might lead?

This is a struggle that we all experience; it is the crossroads between childhood and maturity, innocence and corruption. The allure of the immoral beckons and we consent to a little taste. That one taste suffices to rob us of our innocence, which once surrendered is never recovered. It is an alluring path, but it leads to moral ambiguity, addiction and even despair. We take stock after several months and wonder how it happened. We feel violated, raped; robbed of our essential goodness.

However, the goodness is always there; hidden under layers of indulgence, to be sure, but still there. The path to healing begins with paying fifty Shekels. The Zohar explains that the heart is composed of fifty chambers and that these Shekels represent the totality of our heart. The sophisticated me, who violated the innocent me, must deliberately open my heart to the idea of change.  We must actively counter the allure of the immoral with our yearning for goodness. We must meditate on the allure of G-d and focus on restoring our holiness and purity; on our return to a wholesome and G-dly way of life.

Once we feel that allure within our hearts we must then make a commitment. The heart will open the door to return, but will not propel us through it. This is where the idea of marriage comes in. The sophisticated, intelligent mind, must marry the ideals and purity of the little girl. The two must work together to forge a new path that leads to return. The idealism of the inner child provides the impetus, motivation and enthusiasm, while the mature and intelligent mind directs the path and leads the way.

This marriage cannot be one of momentary interest; true change can only be accomplished with enduring commitment. Yearning without commitment fades as soon as temptation sets in. For yearning to last it must be ensured with life long resolve. The marriage between our inner rapist and our inner little girl must therefore be for life; a marriage with no option for divorce. (4)

Questions For Further Discussion

Does the Torah deal harshly enough with the rapist?

How does secular law compare in its treatment of the rapist?

Have you ever thought of experimentation with forbidden pleasures as raping your innocence?

Is recovery from self rape possible?




  1. Deuteronomy 22:27.
  2. Ksubos
    49b. The compensation goes to the father so long as the victim is a
    minor. Once she reaches the age of maturity the compensation goes
    directly to her.
  3. Rabbi
    Don I. Abarbenel offered the following explanation. In most cases a man
    and woman enter into a covenant of marriage before they are intimate
    and he also lavishes gifts upon her. This man forced himself on his
    victim with no promise of marriage and without the enticement of gifts.
    He is therefore required to make good on both counts. He must pay fifty
    shekels to compensate her for the lack of gifts and is also forced to
    marry her should she desire it.
  4. Based on Zohar 277a and the commentary of Rav Moshe Kurdeviro.

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