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Parashat Ki Teseh – Is It Love or Lust?


There are several pairings of emotional states that are often confused for one another and if misidentified can lead to conflicting emotions.

For example, guilt, which reflects a sense of having done something wrong is often confused with shame, which is a negative feeling of diminished worth.

When thinking about one’s future, a person could have anxiety, which is a debilitating emotion, or concern, which can motivate to prepare a plan of action.

While these pairs of emotions may feel eerily similar, not identifying the difference can negatively effect a persons well-being and life decisions.

In the parasha this week, the Torah identifies two powerful emotions, lust and love, which are often confused.

The Torah relates the case of a soldier who goes out to war and in the thick of battle falls in love with a woman who has been taken captive. The Torah instructs a rigorous process of rituals for her to follow before he is allowed to marry her.

“You shall bring her to the midst of your house, she shall shave her head and weep and mourn for her lost family for an entire month.”

After seeing her in such an unappealing state, he will be more rational in understanding his true feelings.

If he subsequently wishes to terminate the relationship, the Torah states that he must treat the woman respectfully in granting her freedom.

A careful reading of this law reveals that the Torah uses two different words to describe the soldiers feelings for the woman. Initially, the Torah uses the words, “You have lust for her” and later after the passion has subsided the Torah says, ”You never really wanted her”.

At a moment of intense passion, a person may believe with complete certainty that he has one kind of feeling, only to discover after the passion subsides that he was deceiving himself in a misinterpretation of his feelings.

Whenever a person feels a strong desire for something, and particularly if one finds a myriad of reasons why he believes he needs that particular object, it is wise to pause and reflect and seek guidance from an objective person who is not under the same intense emotions. He may then discover the difference between love and lust.

Rabbi Haim Shaul