Kenneth Cohen

Intellect Verses Emotions

The incident of the woman taken captive, known as יפת תואר, is very puzzling. The Torah speaks of a situation where Israel is victorious in battle. They take many prisoners after the battle.

Among these prisoners is a beautiful non-Jewish woman. She is available to any of her captors, and is willing to fulfill their wishes.

The Torah is not happy about what is likely going to transpire. The realization is that there will inevitably be Jewish soldiers who will not pass up such an opportunity. Therefore, certain rules were established regarding this woman. Relations were allowed only once, followed by a thirty day waiting period, where the captive would convert, and a proper marriage would take place.

The Rabbis use the expression, דיברה תורה כנגד יצר הרע, that the Torah spoke opposite the evil inclination. If there wouldn’t be these specific guidelines, he would take her anyways.

The assumption was that if a marriage did emerge, it was not likely to succeed. The attraction between the soldier and the newly converted captive woman, was based on lust and a physical attraction. They go as far as to say that the hated wife in the next section, was referring to this very woman.

There is a strong message here about human nature, and human strivings. We have a body and a soul, representing our physical and spiritual sides. The goal of every Jew, is to make his spiritual side, be guided by his Neshama, connected to the brain, and using his intellect.

This will allow to make wise choices that will have long term, positive effects. He will realize that Torah and acts of kindness, bring more joy than giving in to his physical, animal side. It is a battle, but it can be won with discipline and the proper priorities.

The Yefat Toar case, speaks of where the battle was lost. Passion and lust took over the person, and good judgement was left behind. We must win this battle ourselves and conquer the Yeitzer Hara, so that we can accomplish good in this world.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at