Kenneth Cohen

Jews Must Get Involved

The Torah discusses the subject of נערה מארשה, referring to an engaged, twelve year old girl. It was common in earlier times for a young girl to be married off by her father. The engagement period lasted for a full year.

Unlike today, where engagement simply means that there is an intent to marry, in ancient times, this engagement meant that it was as if she was married. If she willingly had relations with another man, she was an adulteress, and she could be put to death for her crime.

If she was taken against her will, only the attacker would suffer the death penalty.
There is a verse that describes this scenario. “And nothing shall be done to the maiden. She does not receive the death penalty. For just like the case where one murders his friend, so is it here.”

The puzzling part of the Pasuk, is the sudden introduction of a murder case. The Rabbis explain that the Torah is hinting to the law of “Rodef.” This refers to a situation where one is chasing another with the intent to kill. It is our obligation to do everything in our power, to prevent the murder.

The Torah is hinting in our case, that the law of “Rodef,” extends to the case of rape. If we witness a woman being chased by a potential rapist, we must do all we can to stop it.

The implications and connections to every word in the Torah, is fascinating. And we also learn an important lesson, that Jews must not stand idly by, when another Jew is in distress.

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