Oroh V'Simchoh

Meshech Chochmoh
on the Weekly Parsha

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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 34, v. 29: "V'es kol tapom v'es n'shei'hem shovu" - The Rambam hilchos m'lochim 9:14 tells us why the people of Sh'chem were deserving of the death penalty. He writes that included in the seven mitzvos encumbent upon bnei Noach is the mitzvoh to set up a court system and to properly administer the laws for those who have transgressed any of the seven Noachide laws. The punishment for transgressing any of the laws is the death penalty. Since Sh'chem held Dinoh against her will he was guilty of theft. The people of the community did not react by taking Sh'chem to a court and holding him accountable for this sin. they therefore also sinned and were deserving of death. The Ramban in his commentary on verse 13 disagrees with the Rambam and posits that although administering a court system is indeed one of the seven Noachide mitzvos, not fulfilling this particular mitzvoh does not carry the death penalty, in contradistinction to all the other Noachide mitzvos. He proves that the people of Sh'chem were idol worshippers and as such deserved the death penalty. In truth, other communities as well served idols and deserved the same. However, the bnei Yaakov did not have to carry this out at the risk of their own lives. When it came to the city of Sh'chem, where their sister was violated and the whole population seemed to go along with it, they were willing to act.

The MESHECH CHOCHMOH feels that our verse is a strong indication to the opinion of the Rambam. Our verse tells us that the women of this community were captured and not killed. According to the Rambam this is correct, since the gemara Sanhedrin 57b says that even though it is enough to have but one witness to judge a ben Noach guilty, but a woman's testimony is not accepted. Therefore the women were not guilty of not administering justice, since their testimony would not be accepted. However, according to the Ramban wo posits that their sin was idol worship, why didn't Shimon and Levi also kill the women, as we find in Bmidbar 31:17 and Shoftim 21:11, and as is explained in the Rambam hilchos avodoh zoroh 4:6?

Perhaps the opinion of the Ramban can be answered as follows: The Moshav Z'keinim and Paa'nei'ach Rozo ask the opposite of the MESHECH CHOCHMOH's question. Why were the women and children not left alone? They answer that this was done as a strategy to safeguard the bnei Yaakov. After killing out the city of Sh'chem there was a very real fear of the neighbouring peoples attacking the bnei Yaakov, as was indeed very strongly voiced by Yaakov in verse 30. By capturing the women and children who were relatives of the people of the surrounding area they gained leverage to strike a peace deal with them, as otherwise, if the bnei Yaakov were to be attacked there was a fear in the minds of the attackers that their relatives would be killed. They bring a proof for this by pointing out that otherwise how would Yaakov dare send out Yoseif to Sh'chem (37:13), a place of mortal danger.

Thus the question of the MESHECH CHOCHMOH is answered. Although according to the Ramban the women also deserved to be killed, one is not required to carry this out at the risk of his life if instead he could capture them and strike a peace treaty, as mentioned in the Moshav Z'keinim and Paa'nei'ach Rozo. A slight indication for the insight of these two commentators might be found in the order of the verse, mentioning the children before the women. If the intention of taking them as spoils of a battle was for their intrinsic value, the women who were of greater value than children, as servants and for procreating a new generation of servants, should be mentioned first, in the order of the greater down to the lesser. If however, the intention was to take them hostage to work out a treaty, then mentioning the children first is logical, as there were probably more children than grown women.


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