Chamishoh Mi Yo'dei'a

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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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1) Ch. 17, v. 6: "Al pi shnayim eidim o shloshoh eidim yumas ha'meis lo yumas al pi eid echod" - By the testimony of two witnesses or three witnesses shall the guilty person be put to death he shall not be put to death by the testimony of one witness - a) Since we know that one witness is insufficient even for money matters (Dvorim 19:15), why does our verse repeat this by capital punishment? b)If two are believed here, why bother telling us that three are also believed?

2) Ch. 17, v. 7: "Yad ho'eidim ti'h'yeh bo borishonoh l'hamiso" - The witnesses who testify to the guilt of someone who has transgressed a sin that deserving of the death penalty are the ones who execute the sinner. What is the rationale for this ruling?

3) Ch. 19, v. 19: "Va'asisem Lo Ka'asher Zomam La'asos" - The gemara Makos 2a derives from our verse that the Torah requires that the witnesses give sufficiently specific testimony which could make them liable to be refuted by other witnesses who could say that the first ones are false by virtue of not having been at the location where they claim the situation took place at the time they testified it took place, commonly called "imonu heh'yi'sem." If witnesses don't open themselves up to this risk, they are invalid.

It seems that this ruling makes it impossible to ever have acceptable witnesses. If the first set of witnesses requires the possibility of being refuted by the second, then the second can only be accepted if it can be refuted by the third set, and so on. Eventually we will run out of people, so then the last set will be invalid. This will create a reverse domino effect as the ones before them will likewise be invalid, all the way back to the first witnesses. How can we ever have acceptable witnesses?

4) Ch. 19, v. 19: "Kaasher zomam LAASOSE" - The mishnoh Makos 5a derives from the word LA'ASOSE "v'lo kaasher ossoh," that only when the sentence has not been executed and the witnesses are found to be false in a manner called "hazomoh," that others testify that the earlier witnesses were not present at the time and location which they claimed they saw the act done, do we carry out reciprocal punishment. However, if the sentence was irrevocably carried out, the false witnesses are not punished.

This obviously deserves an explanation. If they are punished when nothing was actually done to the falsely convicted person, surely when the sentence was carried out, and they have brought about actual damage to an innocent person (lashes, death, etc.), they surely deserve to be punished.

5) Ch. 20, v. 20: "Rok ho'eitz asher TEIDA" - When we have a doubt if a Torah prohibition applies, we apply the dictum "sofeik d'Oreisoh l'chumroh," when in doubt regarding a Torah-level law, we are stringent. However, there is a disagreement between the Rambam and the Rashboh if acting stringently is required by Torah law or if by Torah law one may be lenient, and it is only a Rabbinical decree to be stringent. According to the opinion that "sofeik d'Oreisoh m'd'Oreisoh l'kuloh," that by Torah law one may be lenient, why does the Torah say that only a tree which YOU KNOW is not a fruit producing tree may be cut down? Even when one has a doubt if it produces fruit, he would also be permitted to do so by Torah law.

Answer to questions on parshas R'ei:

1) Ch. 12, v. 4: "Lo saasun kein laShem Elokeichem" - What exactly is this prohibition?

1) This is a prohibition against bringing a burnt offering to Hashem outside the Mikdosh campus, referring to "ki im el hamokome, Va'ha'veisem shomoh oloseichem" of verses 5 and 6. (Rashi)

2) This is a prohibition against destroying an altar, referring back to "V'nitatz'tem es miz'b'chosom" of verse 3. (Rashi)

3) This is a prohibition against erasing Hashem's name, referring back to "v'ibadtem es shmom" of verse 3. (Rashi)

4) This is a prohibition against sinning in general and causing Hashem to respond by ch"v destroying the Beis Hamikdosh, referring back to "U'shmartem laasose" of 11:32. (Rashi in the name of Rabbi Yishmo'eil)

5) This is a prohibition against using sanctified food as fuel for personal use, referring back to "va'ashei'rei'hem tis'r'fun bo'eish" of verse 3. (Gemara P'sochim 48a)

6) This is a prohibition against building a temple for Hashem in any location that we might choose, referring back to the placement of idols for worship in many locations, "es eloheihem al hehorim horomim v'al hogvo'os v'sachas kol eitz raanon" of verse 2. (The Holy Alshich and Kli Yokor)

7) This is a prohibition against emulating the pagans' forms of serving their gods, referring back to "asher ovdu shom hagoyim" of verse 2. (Rabbi Saadioh Gaon and Rabbi Shlomo Ibn Gvirol)

8) This is a prohibition against building the Beis Hamikdosh on a location that was previously used for idol worship, referring back to "v'ibadtem es shmom min hamokome hahu" of verse 3. Even after destroying all vestiges of idol worship from a location, don't build a temple for Hashem on that location. Even though the gemara Avodoh Zoroh 45a derives from Dvorim 12:2 "al hehorim eloheihem" that their gods are on mountains but the mountains themselves cannot become their gods, i.e. even if a section of earth, mountain, etc. is deified, this does not give it a status of an idol and thus does not bring about a prohibition against deriving benefit from it, nevertheless, this is only regarding people's personal use, but it is still rendered unfit for use for a sanctuary. (Proshas Drochim)

9) This is a prohibition against destroying the mountain top upon which the Beis Hamikdosh will be built, referring back to "A'beid t'abdun es kol hamkomose asher ovdu shom hagoyim ...... al hehorim" of verse 2. The gemara Avodoh Zoroh 45b derives from the double expression "a'beid t'abdun" that not only must the idols be destroyed but the locations need to be destroyed to the point of leaving no vestige of its former use. Since the verse says that the pagans have placed their idols on the high mountains, etc., one might think that it is required to dig up the mountain top upon which the Beis Hamikdosh will be built for fear of its having formerly been a location of idols. Our verse tells us not to do this.

The location of the Beis Hamikdosh will be made known to us by a prophet (Shmuel 2:24:19). This is derived from verse 5, "l'shichno sid'r'shu," which the Sifri explains to mean that we should both attempt to figure out where the location is and as well we will be advised as to the correct location by a prophet. Hashem's choice of location will be one that was never used for idol worship.

Tosfos on the gemara Avodoh Zoroh 45a d.h. "Kol mokome" says that the gemara Yerushalmi asks, "How did they know that the Temple Mount wasn't once used for idol worship?" The Yerushalmi answers that the location was disclosed through a prophet and obviously was never used for that purpose. This is the same as the Sifri. (Nachal K'dumim)

10) Don't do your actions for Hashem in a manner of "KEIN," YES, meaning by rote. Rather, do them with forethought and intention. (The Holy Admor of Kotzk)

11) "LO," - a negative command, "saasun KEIN," - you may turn it into a YES command, "laSHEM Elokeichem," - if you do it for the furthering of Hashem and the Torah. This is the concept mentioned in the gemara Nozir 23b, "G'doloh a'veiroh lishmoh mimitzvoh shelo lishmoh." As well, this is alluded to in Dvorim 18:14, "V'atoh LO CHEIN nosan l'cho Hashem Elokecho," - And to you Hashem has given the opportunity of turning a LO into a KEIN through the ruling of "g'doloh a'veiroh lishmoh mimitzvoh shelo lishmoh." (Igro D'kaloh by the Holy Admor Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Shapiro of Dinov)

12) Do not fixate yourself on the fulfillment of one particular mitzvoh to the point that you feel that if you do not do it properly, all is lost. This often brings to neglect of other mitzvos. (The Holy Chozeh of Lublin)

2) Ch. 12, v. 5: "Ki im el hamokome" - If the earlier part of this verse, "Lo saasun kein laShem Elokeichem" refers to the prohibition of destroying the altar, how do the words "ki im el hamokome" flow?

The Chasam Sofer answers that there is only a prohibition against destroying the altar at the time of "heter bomos," when private altars are permitted, but "ki im el hamokome," when we reach the place, i.e. when we build the Beis Hamikdosh in Jerusalem, and private altars become permanently prohibited, then the altar of the Mishkon may be destroyed.

3) Ch. 12, v. 5: "Ki im el hamokome" - If the earlier part of the verse refers to the prohibition of erasing Hashem's Holy Name, how do the words "ki im el hamokome" flow?

1) The gemara Sukoh 53a,b tells the story of King Dovid becoming aware of the imminent danger of an underground waterway rising and flooding the world. He was advised that it was permitted to write the Holy Name of Hashem on a shard and throw it into the waterway via the opening at the Temple's outer altar to avert this great tragedy. Our verse alludes to this, saying that it is prohibited to erase Hashem's Holy Name except when coming to the location of His choice for the Temple. There Hashem's Holy Name will be erased. (GR"A)

2) It is permitted to erase Hashem's Holy Name at the Beis Hamikdosh location as part of the Sotoh clarification ritual (Bmidbar 5:23). (Nachal K'dumim)

4) Ch. 12, v. 5: "Ki im el hamokom asher YIVCHAR" - Why didn't Hashem advise much earlier in our history where the location of the Beis Hamikdosh would eventually be?

The Rambam in Moreh N'vuchim 3:45 asks this and gives these first three answers:

1) There would have been much opposition by the nations that occupied Eretz Yisroel, and they would not have allowed the bnei Yisroel to gain ownership of the location of the Temple Mount.

2) The pagan nations occupying Eretz Yisroel before the bnei Yisroel conquered the land might have destroyed the future Temple Mount. If I may add, indeed, history has borne this out with the attempt of a nation to obliterate the Temple Mount by piling land-fill on the sides of the Temple Mount to the point that it would not be a distinct mountain. This condition still exists today on the west side of the Temple Mount.

3) There would be much fighting amongst the bnei Yisroel as to whose tribal apportionment should include the Temple Mount. He adds that this is the main reason among the three that he has offered.

4) Perhaps there is also an element of "maa'seh ovos siman labonim," - that which occurred to our forefathers is an omen for their descendants (See Ramban at beginning of parshas Lech L'cho). Avrohom was told to bring his son Yitzchok as a human sacrifice "al achad hehorim asher omar eilecho," upon one of the mountains that Hashem would later disclose to him. This was to be the future Temple Mount. Just as Avrohom was not advised immediately, so also, the generation that entered Eretz Yisroel and many more generations after that were also not told its location. (Nirreh li)

5) Ch. 15, v. 18: "Lo yiksheh v'ei'necho b'sha'leichacho oso chofshi .. avodcho sheish shonim" - Do not find it difficult in your eyes when you send him away free .. he has served you for six years - The master owned this slave for a maximum of six years only. When sending away an indentured slave who might have worked for his master as for as long as 49 years (Vayikra 25:10,13) the Torah does not commensurate with the owner or comfort him by stating that the servant did what was required of him and that we were likewise slaves in Egypt and were freed (verses 15 and 18). It would seem that there is a greater need to mention these concepts there.

Possibly, we can answer this with the insight of the Meshech Chochmoh. He says that to lessen the impact of setting a slave free on Yom Kippur of the "yoveil" year and receiving no compensation, the Torah gives a transition period. From Rosh Hashonoh of "yoveil" until the blowing of the shofar on Yom Kippur, which is when the servant actually leaves, he has no responsibility to work and must still be given room and board by the master gratis (gemara R.H. 10a). This makes it relatively easy for the master to let go with no pep-talk. (Nirreh li)



See also Sedrah Selections, Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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