Ki Teitzei/Ki Tavo

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The Torah's View on Abuse

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

Tragically, abuse in all its forms (verbal, physical, and emotional) is present in all segments of society. We all know that abuse is morally repulsive, but where explicitly in the Torah do we find that abuse is prohibited and contemptable?

There are various sources in the Torah that address different aspects of abuse. We will explore a few of them and one powerful source from Parshat Ki Tetzei. Firstly, there is a negative commandment which prohibits saying something that may be hurtful: “And you shall not hurt, one man his fellow Jew, and you shall fear your God, for I am the Lord, your God.” (Vayikrah 25,17) Verbal and emotional abuse would clearly be forbidden by this prohibition. Additionally, the Torah prohibits striking a person and causing any physical damage to a person. This is learned from the verse “…do not (strike) additionally.” (Devarim 25,3) When Moshe, our teacher, saw a person wanting to strike another he called out “Wicked one, why do you strike your friend?” (Shmot 2:13) By simply raising one’s hand to strike another person, one is called a Rasha (wicked person).

Additionally, the Torah commands us to love one another, to do unto others what one would want to be done unto oneself. (Vayikrah 19:18) Any act of abuse would clearly be prohibited by this Torah command. There are many other Torah sources addressing aspects of abuse, but perhaps the most powerful one is found in this week’s parshah. Parshat Ki Tetzei contrasts the situation of a young married girl who committed adultery with that of a married girl who is raped. With regards to a woman that is raped, the Torah states “…only the party who lay with her shall die, but you shall do nothing to the girl. The girl did not incur the death penalty, for this case is like that of one party attacking and murdering another.” (Devarim 22:25-26) The Torah compares this act of abuse (rape) to murder. The psychological damage to the victim of rape is so incredibly severe that the abuser is committing a crime that is tantamount to murder!

We must be acutely aware of and be on the lookout for abuse and assist in stamping out this terrible stain on our societies. Let us counter this scourge (affliction) with words and deeds of upliftment and comfort to others!