For what it’s worth, I can add a bit to this mess.
The Talmud discusses the passage in question (Deut. 21:10-14) at Qiddushin 22a. Most of the passage is devoted to the details of the process that, according to these verses, must precede the soldier’s marriage to the captive woman. However, it is unclear from the Talmud whether or not the soldier is allowed to RAPE the woman BEFORE she begins that process — and commentators, predictably, differ.
Rashi takes the position Qarim falls back on in his “clarification”: namely, that no rape is ever permitted. A few other sources concur. However, the 19th century rabbi — and famous Orthodox “liberal” — Samson Raphael Hirsch was unfortunately correct in writing (in his own Pentateuch commentary) that the great majority of commentators disagree with Rashi; they insist that the soldier may FIRST rape the captive, and only then must take the steps prescribed in Deuteronomy 21:11-14. These commentators stress the Talmud’s words that the commandment in question was designed with the soldier’s “evil inclination” in mind: in other words, he must satisfy his lust, and divine law concedes this much to him, adding only certain qualifications in the event he intends to “keep” his victim. This was clearly the view — again, the traditional MAJORITY view — that Rabbi Qarim had in mind when he wrote his first response. Rabbi Qarim then added his own gloss to the effect that anything that helps a soldier maintain his fighting morale in time of war can’t be all bad. Given the premises of the previous commentators, I’m afraid I can’t call his position illogical.
I won’t waste time on the revolting assumptions at work here: this passage is perhaps the starkest example in the Hebrew Bible of woman-as-object misogyny. And although commentators like Rashi, Ramban and Ohr ha-Hayyim all clearly wanted to purge the passage of its nastiest aspects, they never won the day. People who naively suppose that today’s Orthodox rabbis, in light of modern feminism — or just basic decency — would be rushing to disown these laws, or at least the most vicious interpretations of them, don’t know much about the rabbinate.
The real point I think this episode illustrates — and this is one that’s hard to fit into a tight paragraph — is the methodological dishonesty employed by far too many Orthodox rabbis when they discover their Talmudic analyses are reaching an unexpected audience and that the audience isn’t happy with what it’s hearing. Instead of telling the truth about the traditional material they’re interpreting, or even — still more breathtaking — acknowledging its moral flaws, these rabbis spin the material into the form that best suits their purpose at that particular moment, hoping the reader won’t know how to check sources for herself and will never realize she’s being lied to. Afterwards, of course, the rabbi can go back to the faithful and repeat what he really believes.
I doubt that many outside the Orthodox Jewish community realize how often this sort of thing happens when rabbis address a non-Orthodox public, or how easily, almost unconsciously, rabbis like Qarim lapse into dishonest apologetics once they realize something they’ve said didn’t have the desired effect on an unfamiliar group of readers. Israel Shahak’s savage critique of the Orthodox rabbinate on this score was, alas, quite justified. And when influential rabbis play this game — in this case, a rabbi whose word is relied on by real soldiers in a real army, dealing (all too often) with real captives — the consequences can only be disastrous. I can assure you that no Orthodox IDF soldier will be impressed by Qarim’s backpedaling, because he will understand at once what it means: that’s the story for THEM; the real story is more complicated, meaning, in the end, do what you want, it’s all right, no one can blame you (assuming you can get away with it). Some religious counsel.Such opinions aren’t just the product of one eccentric rabbi but exist within a larger (and normally unchallenged) consensus.It’s possible that some prominent rabbi has come out with a public statement condemning the majority interpretation of this law and I just missed it, but I think it’s unlikely. By now, if there had been such a statement, I can’t imagine it wouldn’t have been quoted in order, at least, to support Qarim’s attempt to walk back his original position. In fact, the Orthodox Jewish Press had a piece yesterday defending Qarim (or, more accurately, attacking “the left” for daring to criticize him), and the piece doesn’t quote any rabbi other than Qarim himself: