The Me Too Movement started in 2006, when Tarana Burke, a sexual assault victim, used “Me Too” in social media. Probably, most of us had not heard of the Me Too Movement until 2017, when prominent female celebrities accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assaults.
Most recently, the most famous “Me Too” story involves Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, since January 1, 2011, who will remain Governor of New York for less than a week, more. Eleven women accused Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment and two weeks ago, New York’s Attorney General released a report substantiating their accusations. After attempts to discredit the victims, and after Cuomo lost support of Democratic politicians, he announced his resignation.
In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tetse, the Torah anticipated the Me Too Movement by 2700 years. The opening verses describe Israelite soldiers conquering a town and capturing the inhabitants of the town.
If any Israelite soldier sees, among the captives, a comely woman whom he desires as a wife, he shall bring her into his house. She shall then trim her hair, trim her nails, and go into mourning for her mother and father for 30 days. After the 30 days, the soldier may take her as a wife, but thereafter, if he is displeased with her, he is obligated to release her on her own. He can’t sell her for money, because he has abused her.
Robert Alter, my favorite contemporary bible commentator, says that the Hebrew verb meaning “abused her” implies “that the sexual exploitation of a captive woman, even in a legally sanctioned arrangement of concubinage, is equivalent to rape.”
Later in this portion, we read an account of a hypothetical sexual assault upon a virgin who is not engaged. The man shall pay the woman’s father 50 shekels, and she will become his wife, and he is not allowed to divorce her. If you don’t think that is a just position, remember: 2700 years ago, a woman who was not a virgin probably did not have many chances to marry, and if she did not have a husband to support her, her chances for survival were slim to none.
The Torah protected powerless woman at the hands of powerful men. In the 21st century, 2700 years later, we are just catching up to the Torah’s treatment of powerless woman.