And You Thought This Would Be Fun

If you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord, your G-d, will deliver him into your hands, and you take his captives, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you desire her, you may take [her] for yourself as a wife. [Deuteronomy. 21:10-11]
The scenario is the battlefield in where many of the enemy is killed and others are captured. They include women, some of them the object of desire by the Jewish soldier. If this was enlightened Europe, even in the late 20th Century, this would have been a no-brainer: The women would have been raped repeatedly and then killed when no longer wanted.
Now, the Torah in our weekly portion steps in and tells the Jewish soldier: “That’s not what you’re going to do. You are going to respect the woman captive. You can bring her to meet your family and then let her be. She can cry and mourn for her family, her nation and its gods and you must not stop her.
“After a month, you have a choice to make: You either marry her with her permission after she converts to Judaism, or you must let her go. If you decide you don’t want her after the marriage, you must divorce her and let her find somebody else in Israel. You can’t sell her and hand her to anybody else.”
And it will be, if you do not desire her, then you shall send her away wherever she wishes, but you shall not sell her for money. You shall not keep her as a servant, because you have afflicted her.  [Deuteronomy. 21:14]
Moses Ben Nachman, known as the Ramban, elaborates. The gentile captive must not be pressured to convert to Judaism. Conversion must be a voluntary and sincere decision. There is no option of converting and then changing one’s mind. Once you join the Jewish people, you have obligations that remain for the rest of your life.
So far, so good. The problem emerges when the woman captive says she wants to become Jewish, but her motive is material. It’s understandable. She is penniless and you are offering her a home and eventually status. She might learn to love you, or she can continue to fake it.
Now, the Torah says, it gets messy. You understand her loveless motives and begin to hate her. She gives birth to your children, and you hate them, too. You don’t recognize her first-born as yours so that he gets an extra portion of your estate.
Too late. The Yiddish phrase: The way you make your bed, that’s the way you sleep.
Rather, he must acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the despised [wife] and give him a double share in all that he possesses, because he [this firstborn son] is the first of his strength, then he has the birthright entitlement. [Deuteronomy. 21:17]
Still, this might be the least of your troubles, the Torah says. The child of the former woman captive, sensing your hate, responds in the same way. He rebels against everything you stand for. He refuses to pray; refuses to work and spends his time drinking and carousing. When you stop giving him money, he steals.
And they [parents] shall say to the elders of his city, “This son of ours is wayward and rebellious; he does not obey us; [he is] a glutton and a guzzler.” And all the men of his city shall pelt him to death with stones, and he shall die. So, shall you clear out the evil from among you, and all Israel will listen and fear. [Deuteronomy. 21:20-21]
The greatest of our matriarchs were converts. Ruth was the great grandmother of David. But these women embraced G-d and His word. They did not seek money or even comfort.
In Western society, Jewish men have been drawn by gentile women as a gateway to the majority power base. Marry a French woman and you might gain access to the elite.
The portion of Ki Teitzei might have been talking about Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz. Morris was known as the “Bowling King” of Washington D.C. before he moved into real estate. As he approached his forties, he became one of the most eligible bachelors in that city’s Jewish community.
In 1929, Cafritz chose somebody from the outside — Gwendolyn Detre de Surany, a 19-year-old Hungarian who saw marriage as the ladder to the elite. She was the dark beauty. He was the Jew, or as author Gore Vidal put it, “The unknown husband.” Gwendolyn never stopped reminding people of who was who. The three sons, raised as Jews, rebelled, and visitors to their mother’s parties were greeted by firecrackers thrown from the children’s windows.
When Morris died of a heart attack in 1964, Gwendolyn came into her own. She stopped Morris’ annual donations to Jewish causes in Washington. Instead, she used her late husband’s money to join the elite, giving money to such causes as Italian art and opera.
The Cafritz story was chronicled in The Woman at the Washington Zoo. The first section of the book by Marjorie Williams could have been titled “Watch Sammy Run.” In addition to Cafritz, Williams, the late columnist for leading American newspapers and magazines, profiled Richard Darman, a leading aide in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush.
Darman, regarded almost as Kissinger Jr., told his family and colleagues not to talk to reporters about the early part of his life. That was the part in which he was the son of Jewish parents given a bar mitzvah in Rhode Island. He married a gentile and became a congregant of the Episcopal Church, determined to pass as a member of the upper crust in WASP Boston. Darman, who died after a bout of leukemia in 2008, spent his adult life trying to gain respectability.
Compare the gentile beauties in history to the Jewish women who cared for their husbands. How about Rachel, the daughter of the richest man in Jerusalem, who married a 40-year-old shepherd? Her sole condition was that he learn Torah. That man became Rabbi Akiva, the greatest sage in Jewish history.
Gore Vidal summed up the sad and angry life of Gwendolyn Cafritz. When the millions she threw away didn’t buy her respectability, she took to the bottle. Before she died, she essentially wrote her children out of her will. She was not buried next to Morris.
“She was a classic case,” Vidal told Williams. “She wanted something and she put up with a lot of sh.., and she got it. That’s what we call a success story. That what she wanted was pointless is not for us to judge.”
About the Author
Steve Rodan has been a journalist for some 40 years and worked for major media outlets in Israel, Europe and the United States. For 18 years, he directed Middle East Newsline, an online daily news service that focused on defense, security and energy. Along with Elly Sinclair, he has just released his first book: In Jewish Blood: The Zionist Alliance With Germany, 1933-1963 and available on Amazon.