Meir Tzvi Berman

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Parshas Shoftim


"V'Onu V'Omru Yodeinu Lo Shufchu Ess Hadom Hazeh V'Einaynu Lo Raoo"

"And they (the elders) shall answer and say "Our hands did not spill this blood, and our eyes did not see"

If a corpse is found and the murderer cannot be located, then the elders (Torah leaders) of the nearest town must perform the rite called Eglah Arufah. A calf is slaughtered in a special method. Afterwards the town elders wash their hands and recite "Our hands did spill this blood and our eyes did not see."

Rashi notes that it is unfathomable to suspect the elders of the murder. Hence Rashi interprets the statement "Our hands did not spill this blood" to mean: "We did not see this man off without an escort." A question arises. Why does the Torah imply that one who allows a traveller to leave without an escort is a participant in the murder? The answer is that a traveler may feel demeaned if no one bothers to escort him when he leaves.

If his self-esteem suffers then he may have less courage to ward off an attacker. Hence, if one does not accord his fellow man the proper recognition by providing him with an escort then he is not just an innocent bystander. Rather, he may have actually contributed to the circumstances surrounding his fellow man's death. Thus the elders must proclaim "Our hands did not spill this blood" - "We did not see him off without an escort."

(Saba of kelm - P'ninim Mishulchan Govoha)


Another reason why the elders could be held responsible if they failed to provide an escort is based on a statement by the famed Rabbi Yisroel of Salant.

Rabbi Yisroel said, "When a scholar in Mir studies well it prevents a professor in Berlin from abandoning his faith." He meant that when people engage in spiritual pursuits, it produces a spirit of holiness in the world that affects everyone. The actions of a very lofty person generates the greatest amount of holiness. Thus the Torah scholar, who is a member of the spiritual elite, can produce enough holiness to affect the soul of a professor in far-off Berlin. Thus the elders would have to accept some responsibility if they neglected to provide the traveler with an escort.

As spiritual leaders, they stand as the generators of holiness throughout their area. Had they been more careful about the needs of others, the holiness generated may have been able to touch the soul of even the lowest criminal and perhaps the murderer would not have killed the victim. Therefore, they must proclaim that they were not lax in any way towards their fellow man.

(Rabbi Yaakov Neiman-Pininim Mishulchan Govoha)

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Jerusalem, Israel