Continuing our theme from yesterday’s daf about fear in the classroom and pedagogy, there is another dynamic involved in a relationship of dominance.  Whether ideal or not, when one party coerces and dominates the other party, there also is a moral obligation about the dominant party to provide for the subjugated party.  It is a truism in human nature.  For example, though the master may have many servants and obviously have the better end of the deal, a decent master must provide for the basic needs and welfare of the servants.  Technically, one could be cold-hearted like the Nazis (Yemach Shemam V’Zichram), who actually calculated that they can get more economic benefit by working slaves to death by slow starvation than by providing for their needs, but most humans would not behave in such a manner.

Our Gemara on Amud Beis quotes the verse in Devarim (22:29) that discusses the obligations of a rapist.  In Torah society, the restitution that was most important was for the maiden to have some restoration of dignity.  Thus, the man who raped her was obligated to marry her (only if she was willing) and could never divorce her.  In ancient times, the rapist might not have been an utter sociopath.  Thus, the knowledge that he must marry her and not be allowed to divorce her served both as a disincentive as well as a way for the woman to regain dignity in case she was violated.  Like many aspects of halakah, and really law in general, it presupposes overall decency on the part of society members.  When you have people who might be tempted to stray from the law, or even at times let their desires get the better of them, the law can act as a buffer and opportunity for reform.  Hence jail in Torah law is rarely exercised.  Of course if we are dealing with a serial offender or scofflaw, the Jewish court system can take extra-legal measures to contain and even harshly punish offenders who show no respect or try to game the system (see Mishna Sanhedrin 9:5).

In any case, we find that the rapist, because of his act of coercion toward this woman, is now bound and responsible to her even more than a typical wife.  The Maharal (Netzach Yisrael 11:25) cleverly draws a comparison between this relationship and God’s relationship with the Jewish people.  We have a tradition that when the Jews were at Mount Sinai, God held the mountain over their heads stating, “ lf you accept the Torah, good. If not, here shall be your graves.”  (Shabbos 88a). Since this marriage between God and the Jews was, in effect, a forced one, God is now in a position of greater responsibility.  The Maharal thus argues that no matter how the Jewish people might sin, God cannot permanently divorce them.


Translations Courtesy of Sefaria, (except when, sometimes, I disagree with the translation cool.)