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When a man takes a new wife he shall not go out to war… he shall be free for his home for the first year and bring happiness to his wife… (24:6)
You may take neither an upper nor lower millstone as a pledge, for that is taking life as a pledge (24:7)
These two commandments appear to be entirely unrelated. Yet one follows the other without the traditional spacing in the Torah. What connects the two? And what underlying principle do both address?
Hirsch stresses that the laws in this chapter are to enable the Israelites to function as an established society when settled in the Promised Land. Amongst those directives are special consideration for the welfare and feelings of the most dependent members of society.
That last point may be taken further. It includes accommodating the needs of people which are not obvious, but no less essential. For the most disadvantaged are those without family and/or material connections: 'the strangers, the orphan, the widow' (24: 19, 20, 21). But the Torah instructs us to tune in to the needs of people in 'ordinary' circumstances as well. Their requirements are no less important because they are not immediately obvious.
This principle neatly links the two Mitzvot. Getting married is not a mere change of status, but the beginning of a beginning. The young woman has given her life to someone who not so long ago was a complete stranger. Behind that beautiful white dress is an extremely vulnerable human being. She desires to be with him: not just in the obvious matters, but all those every day little considerations that make her feel loved, wanted, and needed. Feeling happy and comfortable in the relationship is the vital foundation for later years when they work together bringing up a family. The Torah does not ask the community to finance their early years together, but to give them consideration - to 'leave them alone' - together - for the first year. They should have many years in the future to contribute proactively to the wider community.
The same applies to person short of money. The creditor is entitled to get his cash back, but with due consideration to the needs of the debtor - by letting him continue to earn a living. The creditor may take security - but 'leave alone' - not taking what the debtor uses to make 'his soul' - a living.
Thus the connection between these very different situations is three-fold. Firstly, the needs of people are none the less needs because they are less obvious. Secondly, they may often be met without harming the long-term interests of other parties. And thirdly, they are realized by 'letting them be' where appropriate.
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Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
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