Purpose of the Captive Woman Protocol


Manicure and Haircut

Devarim 21 details the process undergone by a captive woman whose captor desires to marry her:


(י) כִּי תֵצֵא לַמִּלְחָמָה עַל אֹיְבֶיךָ וּנְתָנוֹ י״י אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּיָדֶךָ וְשָׁבִיתָ שִׁבְיוֹ. (יא) וְרָאִיתָ בַּשִּׁבְיָה אֵשֶׁת יְפַת תֹּאַר וְחָשַׁקְתָּ בָהּ וְלָקַחְתָּ לְךָ לְאִשָּׁה. (יב) וַהֲבֵאתָהּ אֶל תּוֹךְ בֵּיתֶךָ וְגִלְּחָה אֶת רֹאשָׁהּ וְעָשְׂתָה אֶת צִפׇּרְנֶיהָ. (יג) וְהֵסִירָה אֶת שִׂמְלַת שִׁבְיָהּ מֵעָלֶיהָ וְיָשְׁבָה בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבָכְתָה אֶת אָבִיהָ וְאֶת אִמָּהּ יֶרַח יָמִים וְאַחַר כֵּן תָּבוֹא אֵלֶיהָ וּבְעַלְתָּהּ וְהָיְתָה לְךָ לְאִשָּׁה. (יד) וְהָיָה אִם לֹא חָפַצְתָּ בָּהּ וְשִׁלַּחְתָּהּ לְנַפְשָׁהּ וּמָכֹר לֹא תִמְכְּרֶנָּה בַּכָּסֶף לֹא תִתְעַמֵּר בָּהּ תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר עִנִּיתָהּ.

(10) When you go forth to battle against your enemies, and Hashem your God delivers them into your hands, and you carry them away captive, (11) and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you have a desire to her, and would take her to you as wife; (12) then you shall bring her home to your house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; (13) and she shall put the clothing of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in your house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that you shall go in to her, and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. (14) It shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall let her go where she will; but you shall not sell her at all for money, you shall not deal with her as a slave, because you have humbled her.

What is the purpose and need for all of these actions? Do they serve to make the woman prettier or uglier? To degrade or respect her?1 Either way, of what significance is the state of the woman's hair, fingernails,2 and clothing? Additionally, why does the Torah care so much that the woman mourn for her parents?3 And what if her parents either died long ago or are still alive?

Twice Married?

The Torah leaves some ambiguity as to whether this procedure take place before or after the captor marries the woman. From "וְלָקַחְתָּ לְךָ לְאִשָּׁה" in verse 11, it might appear that the marriage has already taken place. Yet, after the process is completed, verse 13 repeats that the woman is then taken as a wife ("וְהָיְתָה לְךָ לְאִשָּׁה"). What is the relationship between these two nuptial descriptions? Do all of the actions in the middle constitute prerequisites for the marriage to take place? If so, why?

Intermarriage Issues

While the Torah seems quite concerned with the minute details of the heathen woman's physical appearance and clothing, it makes no mention whatsoever of her spiritual state and religious beliefs. Why does the Torah not emphasize that the woman must cease worshiping idols or begin to observe mitzvot? Is it possible that the Torah is condoning intermarriage?