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Vol 27.20 - Kedoshim 1               Spanish French Audio  Video

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Chumash

Summary:
(5741) Boundary of "You shall not place a stumbling block before a blind person" (Rashi Lev.19:14)
 

Translation:

1. On the verse (Lev.19:14): “before a blind person you shall not place a stumbling-block”

Rashi explains:

“Before someone blind in the matter (at hand) you shall not give advice which is unsuitable for him”

(and he cites an example as will be explained in Par 3).

One must understand:

How does Rashi – according to the simple understanding of the verse – take the words out of their plain context and instead of the simple translation, that one must place a stumbling-block before one who, G-d forbid cannot see, explain that:

1.       “blind person/eever” means “blind in the matter (at hand)” and

2.       “stumbling-block/michshul” means “advice which is unsuitable for him”

The Mizrachi learns that this comes in continuation to Rashi‘s previous explanation on the words: “You shall not curse a deaf person” where he states:

“I (know this of) a deaf person, from where (do I know to) include everyone? (The verse says: ‘Do not curse among your people’) etc. If so, why is a ‘deaf person’ mentioned? Just as a deaf person is special (in that he is alive), so too anyone (who is alive--- excluding the dead, who are not alive)”.

And since these two laws appear in the same verse, one must say that: “Blind is similar to deaf namely that just as it does not solely mean deaf so to it does not solely mean blind”.

However, this explanation is difficult (as the commentators question):

On the words: “You shall not curse a deaf person”, Rashi does not take the word “deaf” out of the plain context – he just says that we learn from “deaf” that “Just as a deaf person is special etc., so too anyone etc.“.

However by “before a blind person you shall not place a stumbling-block” Rashi states that “blind” means (not just the simple meaning - one who cannot see, but) “blind in the matter”. Thus according to Rashi a blind person is not “similar to a deaf person”.

Moreover:

The aforementioned explanation is only a reason why one must explain that “blind /eever does not solely mean ‘blind’” but rather “blind in the matter”. It however, remains unclear why Rashi needs to explain that “place a stumbling-block” does not refer to a plain (physical) obstruction, but rather that it specifically refers to speech - and “advice which is unsuitable for him”?

Rashi should have seemingly learned (according to - the method of Halacha) that “before a blind person you shall not place a stumbling-block”  etc.” comes to exhort someone not to place a stumbling-block before a Yid who is blind in the matter – stumbling-block meaning something that is a sin, which would be like the example in Talmud:

“One should not give a cup of wine to a Nazir” (which, by the way, is not an aspect of speech but rather the deed of placing a stumbling-block of a sin)?

2. The Gur Aryeh states that Rashi‘s necessity for this explanation is from the conclusion of the verse:” You shall fear your G-d, I am the L-rd” which applies (as Rashi states there) only to:

“every matter which is given over to the heart of the person who does it”.

And since placing a (literal) “stumbling-block” before a “blind person” is not a “matter which is given over to the heart” , but rather a deed in which one’s intent is recognized, therefore Rashi learns that here it refers to “giving advice which is unsuitable for him” namely where one cannot discern whether his “intent/da’ato” was for good or evil, and he can evade (the charge of evil intent) by saying: ‘My intent was for the best’".

However, it is difficult to say that this is Rashi’s foundation (and necessity) for explaining so. For then Rashi would have had to explain the words “You shall fear your G-d”

(not in a separate heading/dibur haMaschil, but rather)

in the same heading, one continuing commentary: (for example, concluding with) “Therefore it states ‘You shall fear your G-d’ etc., similar to what we find in Torat Kohanim here: “perhaps you will say it was good advice . . the matter is given over to the heart etc.”.

(and as we find in Rashi’s commentary itself further in the Sidra on the verse: “You shall respect an elder” – “One should not sit in his place etc. Perhaps he is permitted to close his eyes (as though he does not see him?) Therefore it is said, ‘And you shall have fear of your G-d’- etc.”)

Since Rashi divides this into a separate heading, it indicates that the explanation of: “Before someone blind in the matter you shall not give advice which is unsuitable for him” is an independent aspect and that the necessity for explaining it so, is from the words (“before a blind person you shall not place a stumbling-block”) themselves.

3. Rashi continues on to give an example of “advice which is unsuitable for him” - “do not say: ‘Sell your field and buy a donkey,’ (while) you maneuver against him and take it from him”.

This is not understood:

1.       The phrase “advice which is unsuitable for him” is very clear and does not require an explanation – therefore why must Rashi give an example, at all?

2.       And if an example of “advice which is unsuitable for him” (is required) there are many simpler and easier examples of this aspect.

3.       Moreover: In  Torat Kohanim – the source of Rashi’s commentary – three examples of “advice which is unsuitable for him” are written:

·         “Do not say to him: ‘leave’ in the morning in order that robbers may capture him,

·         ‘leave’ at noon in order that he become dehydrated ( that he should succumb to dehydration and heat-stroke).

·         Do not say: ‘Sell your field and buy a donkey,’ (while) you maneuver against him and take it from him”.

(and regarding this brings a an example connected with a sin: “if he comes and asks ‘is this maiden fit for a kohen’, do not say she is kosher when (he knows that) she is unfit”)     

From all these aforementioned examples, Rashi specifically cites the last, and none of the first (and simpler) examples?

4. In this aforementioned example, it is not understood why Rashi, who comments according to the simple understanding of the verse, concludes with: “while you maneuver against him and take it from him”?

Plainly, the “advice which is unsuitable for him” resides in that which, the person “blind in the matter” would rather have a “field” instead of a “donkey” (Note: and the unsuitable advice is to by a donkey). How does the addition of a completely new aspect: “while you maneuver against him and take it from him” coincide with this?

One could seemingly answer (albeit with difficulty):

Rashi, on the verse (Parshat Vayechi 49:14): “Yissachar is a bony donkey, crouching between the borders” comments:

“like a strong donkey loaded with a heavy load . . . that travels day and night and has nowhere to rest indoors so that when it wishes to rest it crouches ‘between the borders’ i.e., between the borders of the cities to where it is carrying merchandise.”

From this, a person (even a five-year old student) can understand that regarding one’s livelihood, a person can have more benefit from a donkey than from a field – because one can work day and night without excessive burden to the owner, because the donkey carries the heavy burdens. However, with a field, the work (usually) is only by day, and it entails labor and effort on the owner’s part in all types of work – in sowing, planting, reaping etc., throughout the year. Moreover, the work and transporting of merchandise with the donkey produces immediate profit, or at least in a short time span. However, with a field, one receives profit only after an extended period – after the harvest season has arrived and even more so – after the time of the harvest of the produce.

According to this, the “advice” of ‘Sell your field and buy a donkey” is really, in general, at the present – good advice. Therefore Rashi concludes: “while you maneuver against him and take it from him” meaning to say that here, it is dealing with an “advisor” who, with his “advice”, is attempting to usurp the field from him.

5. However, this is entirely not straightforward, because:

1.       It is simple and understood that, on the other hand, a “field” has an advantage compared to a “donkey”.

(For example: a field does not die. And in general, working with a donkey involves hardship from the owner’s constant traveling from place to place. However, a field is usually close to one’s home and city, and there are other benefits)

Particularly, the phrase states: “which is unsuitable for him” - there can be many ways that for him it would be better to buy a field.

(This is similar to the previous example in Torat Kohanim that states: “‘leave’ in the morning in order that robbers may capture him”. Generally, departing in the morning is good advice. Yet in this situation it is bad because there are bandits, Therefore it is advice (like the precise wording in Torat Kohanim) “which is unsuitable for him”. And as the Torat Kohanim concludes: “perhaps you will say ‘I am giving good advice’ . . the matter is given over to the heart as it says ‘You shall fear your G-d, I am the L-rd’” meaning that the advisor can actually claim that he was intending to give “good advice”).

2.       Additionally and more importantly:

If it really is better for the owner of the field to have a donkey rather than a field – what does he care if the advisor, later on, takes the field from whom the (field owner – the “blind person in the matter”) sold it to? For from the field owner’s (– the “blind person in the matter”) perspective, it is not (considered) a “stumbling-block” and even more not “advice which is unsuitable for him”. Because, on the contrary, for him, he would rather have the donkey!

6. One can understand this according to the maxim (also in the method of Pshat) that:

When the Torah repeats a law that we previously already know, one must endeavor to find there an innovation in the law, and not just say that the repetition is just in order to “increase the negative commandments/l’harbos b’laavin” (and so on).

(And in those places where Rashi explains (that the repetition is): “to hold responsible and to punish (the transgressors) according to the number of negative precepts that they contain” etc., (he writes this) because there is no innovation in the law (according to the method of Pshat)).

We see this in Rashi’s commentary in this verse itself: on the words “You shall not curse a deaf person.” Rashi, as aforementioned, explains:

“where (do I know to) include everyone? (The verse says: ‘Do not curse among your people’) etc. If so, why is a ‘deaf person’ mentioned? Just as a deaf person etc.”

Rashi, seemingly, could have simply learned that even though there is a prohibition of “You shall not curse/Sa’or”, which includes “everyone” even a “deaf person”, nevertheless concerning a “deaf person” it specifically states “You shall not curse/Sekalel” in order to give the (transgression) of a “deaf person” and extra prohibition/lav yatir.

It is therefore understood that if it is at all possible, one must explain the verses in a manner that one does not have to resort to say that this is only because of adding extra prohibitions.

The same is in our case:

The aspect of “before a blind person you shall not place a stumbling-block” in simple terms - meaning that one must not place any obstacle in which a “blind person” could become harmed – is already known from the previous section in Torah where it speaks of many prohibited, and undesirable activities etc. For example: (Ex: 21:33) “If a man uncovers a pit, or if a man digs a pit, and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it etc.”. This means that one must not do something – “placing an obstacle” which will cause another person harm.

And even though the Torah does not explicitly speak there regarding prohibition and permissibility (Issur v'heter), but rather concerning compensation from damages – it is the opposite: (the harm is conceded It is just) whether a person is punished (and must pay) for the harm which was caused.

(and more so: there (verse 33) , the “obstacle” is entirely not his – as Rashi explains there, that it is speaking of digging a pit “in the public domain” – yet nevertheless the one who instigated the damage (baal haTakala) is obligated to pay for the damage just as if it was “his”).

Thus it is certain that this is prohibited thing.

Therefore Rashi learns that here, there is a new type of prohibition which is not included and cannot be derived from the law of “If a man uncovers a pit, or if a man” etc. (which causes another damage) as will be explained at the end of Par 7 etc.)

7. According to this it is understood simply, why Rashi cannot bring the first two examples in Torat Kohanim:

·         “Do not say to him ‘leave’ in the morning in order that robbers may capture him,

·         ‘leave’ at noon in order that he become dehydrated ( that he should succumb to dehydration and heat-stroke).

 that they are “advice which is unsuitable for him” - because those examples of “unsuitable advice” are (according to the method of Pshat) included in the aspect of “If a man uncovers a pit etc.”. For through his (bad) advice, he caused the other person harm.

(It is true that the “cause” here is not in a manner that is recognizable (not like the act of “If a man uncovers a pit etc.”) – however, there is no difference whatsoever in the outcome - causing another person harm).

For the same reason, Rashi cannot learn that “before a blind person etc.” means that one must not cause another to sin – for just as one must not cause another person physical harm (to his body or possessions), certainly one must not cause another person’s soul harm ( by transgressing a sin).

We find this, elaborated at length, in Parshat Bereshit – where the nachash/serpent was severely punished for enticing Chava with the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge (as it states) “Cursed are you more than all cattle etc.” From this is understood the tremendous prohibition of causing another to sin (and as Rashi explains there: “From here (we learn) that we do not attempt to mitigate the sin of a seducer”).

Therefore, Rashi specifically brings the last example from Torat Kohanim – “Do not say: ‘Sell your field and buy a donkey’” and concludes “while you maneuver against him and take it from him”. For specifically this example expresses an innovation, as will be explained.

8. By concluding with “while you maneuver against him and take it from him”, Rashi is emphasizing that the negative aspect is:

not in causing the “blind person in the matter” to trade a field for a donkey, for (as explained in Par 4) for this is not necessarily a loss for him,

but rather (the negative aspect is) in that which “you maneuver against him and take it from him”.

The Torah is innovating here a new law (according to Pshat):

It does not speak here concerning the prohibition of creating harm to a “blind person”, but rather the Torah is prohibiting (also) just giving “advice which is unsuitable for him”. When one gives another person advice, one must intend that the advice is “suitable for him” - and not concerning his own benefit i.e. how much he can profit from it.

And this is expressed in the aforementioned example: “Do not say: ‘Sell your field and buy a donkey while you maneuver against him and take it from him”. For even if the recipient of the advice will have no loss, at all, nevertheless, it is “unsuitable for him” – not necessary for him - therefore the Torah forbids it. For to give advice to another, one must thoroughly consider the other person’s circumstance and determine what is necessary for the other person (“suitable for him”), and not take advantage of this for his own profit – “to maneuver against him and take it from him”.

Even though one could think: This “blind person in the matter” will not lose anything – therefore what harm is there that he (the advisor) benefits (hana’ah)?

Therefore Rashi states: “before a blind person you shall not place a stumbling-block” - “Before someone blind in the matter (at hand) you shall not give advice which is unsuitable for him”:

“Stumbling-block” here includes even when the person (blind in the matter) encounters no loss whatsoever. The “Stumbling-block” is just a manner of giving advice “which is unsuitable for him” The “blind person” believes that the advisor is giving “suitable advice” yet the advisor is “maneuvering against him” – he is tricking him and giving advice “for his own personal benefit”.

9. According to this one can understand the elaboration in Rashi’s commentary on ‘You shall fear your G-d’ etc. where he states:

“since this matter is not given over to people (to decide), to know if (the) intention of this one was for good or evil, and he can evade (the charge of evil intent) by saying: "My intent was for the best," therefore it is said about it: "you shall fear your G-d"--- the One who discerns your thoughts. Similarly every matter which is given over to the heart of the person who does it, (while) other people cannot discern (his real intent), it is said: "you shall fear your G-d.”

Whereas in Torat Kohanim it states concisely:

“Perhaps you will say ‘I am giving good advice’ . . the matter is given over to the heart as it says ‘You shall fear your G-d, I am the L-rd’”

In Torat Kohanim the emphasis in on the words: “perhaps you will say ‘I am giving him good advice’. In other words, in actuality, it is bad advice, but a person cannot fault him since the advisor can claim that he meant that this is good advice (and therefore it is a matter” given over to the heart”).

According to Rashi, however, it makes no difference whether, in actuality, the advice was “good advice” or “bad advice”. The main thing just concerns the “thought” and “intent” of the person – whether at the time of giving the advice he was thinking of the other person, or not.

(and one cannot know this even after the advisor purchased the field – since it could be that this was not his initial intent when giving the advice, but only afterwards, he created an opportunity where he could buy the fields (from the one who purchased the field from the “blind person”)

Therefore the verse states: "you shall fear your G-d -- the One who discerns your thoughts” and knows what the person’s intentions are at the time of giving the advice.

10. From this we have a tremendous lesson in the aspect of Ahavat Yisroel – how much a Jew is required to be involved in the welfare of another Jew.

It is not sufficient that you conduct yourself in a manner that the other person has, in actuality, a benefit from your conduct. It also concerns your “manner/derech” of intent and purpose. When you do a favor for another, you must completely be “removed” from yourself and think entirely of the other’s circumstance and surround yourself with impartiality – not mixing in any biases or conflicts.

Then, the fulfilling of Ahavat Yisroel is in a manner of “Love your fellow as yourself”. For when one feels that the “fellow” is “like yourself”, plainly, really “like yourself” - that the fellow is not a “stranger/zulas” but is one with you representing Achdut Yisroel/Jewish unity – then he thinks of his “fellow” in a manner that involves him completely, as if it is really himself/kamocha.

m/Sichas Shabbat Parshat Kedoshim 5741

Links:

http://www.torah4blind.org/hebrew/rashi-eng-kedoshim-5776.pdf

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