There are many different topics covered by this week’s Parashat, but two themes come up again and again. These themes are the distinctions that Adonai has “in the natural world which are wrong for man to obliterate”[1] and sanctity or holiness of the marriage relationship. Concerning holiness, the Expositors Commentary says that if we think of “purity only in terms of moral separation” we will miss the “point of several of the laws discussed” in this Parashat. “The Biblical concept of purity or holiness has two primary aspects: separation from sin (negative aspect) and consecration to a dedicated usage (positive aspect). So the idea of holiness does concern “separation” from or the careful avoidance of sin, but also deals with something that is dedicated for special purposes.”[2]

[Deut. 22:1-29, 23:18-19, 24:1-5][3]

To start off let’s look at a couple of distinctives that are made. We see in vs. 9 that Beni Yisrael was not to plant two types of seeds in their vineyard, and in vs. 11 that their clothing was not to be made from wool and linen. While these distinctions may seem strange to us, Adonai is showing that what he has made distinct in nature should remain distinct. And while these two examples may seem distant, the distinctive in vs 5 is quite close to home. Adonai says that cross-dressing is not acceptable. In particular there were many examples in the surrounding pagan nations of how cross-dressing was associated with “false worship or horrible perversion”[4] as we will see later in this study. The distinctions do not denote a difference in value, but rather Adonai’s creation is diverse and beautiful and He loves variety. Let’s see what the Apostle Sha’ul says in his letter to the Galatians. [Gal. 3:23-29]

In vs. 13-19 we find a case where a wife is falsely accused of not being a virgin at marriage. Once the man’s false claim is proven, he is publicly punished, made to pay a double dowry payment to the woman’s parents and then forced to take care of her for the rest of their lives. In a culture were an unmarried woman would have an extremely difficult time making a living, this was protection for the wife. If on the other hand, the accusation proves to be true (all capital crimes required 2-3 witnesses) then the woman is executed. Adonai holds the marriage relationship in very high regard because it reflects the covenant relationship that he has with his people. Anything that breaks that covenant brings about judgement.

In vs. 22 – 24 we see that in cases of consensual adultery, both parties were guilty and to be punished. This should shed light on the story of Yeshua. Let me read the passage in [John 8:1-11] and tell me what is missing? In vs. 25-27 we find out the clarity concerning rape. We see that the innocence of the woman is assumed, and the reasons for the woman’s innocence, is that she “cried out but nobody heard her.” This would therefore apply to every situation where the woman’s cry could not be heard, but it also brings up an important point. As a community we are called to care for one another. The earlier verses talk of watching out for our neighbour’s animal, how much more so should we seek to protect our neighbour’s daughter?

This chapter finishes (vs. 28-29) with a demand that men own up to their actions and take responsibility for their interactions with women. The responsibility here is for a man to protect and provide for a woman that he sleeps with, with the one caveat. The law reiterated here in Deuteronomy is built upon the passage in Exodus 22:15-16, “If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife. But if her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he must weigh out silver equal to the dowry for virgins.” To a certain extent this is still practiced today, through child-support payments, and in some places, the inability of a parent to move to a different state than that of their children.

Before moving on to Yeshua’s perspective of marriage, I want to close out this section of the Torah with [23:18-19] As was mentioned before, cross-dressing was associated with pagan temple prostitution, and here Adonai not only explicitly bans these practices, but also any proceeds from this practice. We also see that a temple prostitute was called a “dog.” Do you remember another conversation where someone was referred to as a dog? (See Matt. 15:21-31)

Now we will go over and look at Yeshua’s discussion about marriage, and in particular the divorce that is mentioned in (Deut. 24:1-4).

[Matt. 19:1 – 12]

In Vs. 1-3 we have an interesting question, which needs to have the background explained, “Is it permitted for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” At that time there were two primary rabbinic schools, the School of Hillel, and the School of Shammai. In general Yeshua usually sided with Hillel, however in this case he sided with Shammai. “The School of Shammai translated these words [in Deut. 24:1] by ‘a thing of indecency’, and maintained that divorce could only be allowed if the wife was guilty of unchastity; whereas the School of Hillel rendered them by ‘indecency in anything,’ implying that a wife may be divorced also for reasons other than unchastity.”[5] If you want an example for this there is a conversation with the Rabbi in the movie, “Fiddler on the Roof” that discusses this exact point. So how does Yeshua answer?

In Matt. 19:4-6 we see that Yeshua takes the question of marriage all the way back to the Garden of Eden. He speaks of the original intent of marriage and that from Adonai’s perspective, the “two have become one flesh.” We see that Yeshua affirms that marriage is between one male and one female for life, and then he gives no other options.

This immediately causes the Pharisees to ask about why the Torah allows for divorce. Another question could have been why polygamy was allowed as well. Notice Yeshua’s response? He shows that the reason for divorce is the hardness of people’s hearts, and that this is not Adonai’s desire for anyone. Yeshua then sides with Shammai and states that divorce should be limited to adultery. Yeshua’s own talmidim are incredulous, and declare that celibacy might then be a better option. But Yeshua states that while celibacy is acceptable, it is only for those “who can accept it.”

In conclusion, this week’s Torah portion and Yeshua’s perspective on marriage are extremely relevant today. This issue of redefining marriage has become one of the most contentious, inflamed divisive issues of our day. The reason is simple, Adonai defined marriage, back in Genesis (5:2, 2:24), but we live in a country that trying desperately and deliberately to forget God, or rather refuse to “recognize God. (Rom. 1:28)” But there are many who see that when a nation redefines marriage it is a proof that Adonai’s judgement is against that nation. Sha’ul says to the Romans that it is proof that Adonai is giving our nation “over [to] the evil desires of their hearts (Rom. 1:24).” C.S. Lewis said that in the end, “All get want they want; they do not always like it.”[6]

[1] Hertz, J.H., The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, 2nd Ed., Soncino Press, London, 1978, Pg. 843.

[2] Grianti, M. A., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. Ed., Vol 2, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2008.         Pg. 675.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from the Tree Of Life Version (TLV), 2014.

[4] Grianti, Commentary, Pg. 674.

[5] Hertz, Pentateuch, Pg. 850.

[6] Lewis, C.S., The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew, Harper Collins, New York, 1955.