Vol 32.19 - Kedoshim 2 Spanish French Audio Video
1. On the verse (Lev. 19:16):
“You shall not stand by your fellow's blood” (I,e You shall not stand idly by when the life of your fellow is in danger).
“(do not stand by) watching your fellow’s death, when you are able to save him” (And after this Rashi cites examples as will be mentioned in Par. 2)
At first glance, it appears that Rashi’s intent here is to explain the words “(You shall not stand by) your fellow’s blood” - in other words “his death”. And according to this “You shall not stand by your fellow’s blood” means that it is prohibited to stand and “watch your fellow’s death” when one is able to save him.
However, according to this it is problematic. What is this coming to teach us? After all, this is the simple explanation of these words, as we find in many places in Scripture. Namely that the “blood” of the person is his soul and vitality (as it states: “For the soul of the body is in the blood“, and “for the blood is the life”). Therefore what is Rashi innovating in his explanation that “your fellow’s blood” means “watching your fellow’s death”?
Seemingly one could answer that the main innovation of Rashi is in the explanation of the words “(You shall not) stand” (And not in the explanation of “your fellow’s blood”). For the explanation is not that of (physical) standing in the literal sense -
(As it appears from the explanation of the Ibn Ezra where he writes that “One should not join with bloodthirsty men”. In other words that “You shall not stand etc.” comes subsequent to what is stated in the beginning of the verse that “You shall not go around as a gossipmonger amidst your people”. And the verse ends with “You shall not stand” meaning joining with gossipmongers for this will lead to “your fellow’s blood”) –
but rather to standing and delaying (להתעכב) from endeavoring to save his fellow (“standing by and watching your fellow’s death“). Therefore Rashi precisely states the words “watching your fellow’s death” for this is the main innovation here of “You shall not stand” - that he stands and watches without doing anything.
However, the continuation of Rashi’s words: “when you are able to save him” is still not understood, for what is it teaching us? It is simple that it is speaking of one who is able to save him. For would one think that if he is unable to save him and he watches his fellow’s death that he would transgress this negative Mitzvah (Lav)?!
Moreover, if Rashi’s intent is to emphasize the deed of the saving that is obligated from this Negative Mitzvah
(That it is prohibited to stand and watch his death, but rather we are obligated to save him) –
it should have stated: “(watching your fellow’s death,) but rather you are obligated to save him”.
The question is even greater:
The source of Rashi’s comment is in Torat Kohanim on this verse, and in the Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin. And in both of them the wording is “(you are) obligated to save him “. Yet Rashi changes this and writes “you are able to save him”!
2. Afterward Rashi continues:
“For example, if he is drowning in the river and a beast or robbers come upon him”
לראות במיתתו ואתה יכול להצילו, כגון טובע בנהר, וחיה או לסטים באים עליו
One must understand:
The condition of danger to one’s life (סכנת נפשות) is simple and why does Rashi need to bring examples for this? And even if one were to say that one needs to bring examples – why does Rashi specifically cite these examples?
And even though these examples are cited in the Talmud (Sanh. 73a) and in Torat Kohanim (19:41) –
Besides that which the primary aspect of Rashi in his commentary on Torah is (like Rashi’s words themselves) to explain the simple understanding of the verse (and not to cite the statements of the Sages),
in our case, Rashi deviates from the words of the Sages:
In the Talmud and Torat Kohanim there are three examples:
Yet Rashi changes and writes:
In other words, according to Rashi there are not three examples, but rather a combination of two dangerous conditions.
For in addition to drowning in the river, robbers OR beasts come upon him.
(And one cannot say that the intent of the “AND/Vav” of “And a beast” is like “OR a beast” (as we find in many places that the letter “Vav” (normally meaning “AND”) can be used in the context of “OR”) –
For Rashi himself continues “and a beast OR robbers”. And this proves that the previous statement “And a beast” means the literal explanation – that it is a “Vav” that comes to include (“AND”). And especially since in the Talmud and Torat Kohanim it actually states “OR” yet Rashi changes it to “AND a beast”. If so it is more certain that Rashi’s intent is like the simple meaning (of the letter “Vav” that it means “AND”).
And this is puzzling in general:
Why does Rashi write such a complicated (מסובכת) example – namely the combination of three occurrences of dangerous situations together? And it is as if, only in such a condition as this, that the Torah commands “You shall not stand by your fellow’s blood”!
One must also precisely examine:
(the term “harmful beast” -- that is stated in Torat Kohanim)
and writes “beast” plainly.
(And even though the word “harmful” is also missing in the Talmud, the Talmud, at least, it states: “a beast that drags him“() which emphasizes that it is speaking of a harmful beast)
3. One can say that the explanation of all this is:
Rashi’s intent is not to explain the meaning of the words: “You shall not stand by your fellow’s blood”. For this is simple and understood even without Rashi’s comment, namely that the intent of the verse is regarding the saving of “your fellow” from death – but rather he is coming to resolve the difficulties in the wording of the verses:
Since the intent of the verse is to obligate the person to do all that is in his ability to save his fellow- why does it sates this in a negative manner (שלילה) , the prohibition of “You shall not stand by your fellow’s blood”, and not in an expression of a clear command of the primary intent (rising and acting) (קום ועשה) – the obligation to save his fellow from death (similar to what we find regarding the Mitzvot that were said regarding the saving of the money of his fellow “make every effort to help him“ “bring it back to him” etc.)?
(And even if the verse wants to be stringent and to prohibit it with a Negative command (Lav) – at the very onset it should have written the main point, the obligation (the Positive Mitzvah) of saving his fellow (similar to the aforementioned Mitzvot to save his fellow’s money) and after this, also add the Negative command (Lav).
From this it is understood that Rashi’s intent is not to innovate the essential obligation to save his fellow from the danger of death
(And especially since this obligation is learned from a kal v’chomer from that which we are obligation assist his fellow in every matter, even to saving his money as aforementioned, and certainly saving his life) –
but rather that in this verse, there is an innovation in the manner of the obligation of saving one’s fellow that is impossible to learn from another place.
And this innovation is emphasized is the wording of the verse “You shall not stand by your fellow’s blood”. For from this it proves that it is speaking of condition that lends room to say that it is permissible for a person to stand and delay from saving him. Therefore the verse commands: “You shall not stand by”.
How is this possible? It is in a case where one’s fellow is in such a danger that his saving is tied up with danger to the life of the saver.
In this case it is understood, that in such a manner as this, it is possible to say that the person is able (and perhaps even more so - obligated) to refrain - to stand in his place, in order that he not endanger himself. Therefore there comes a unique verse that states: “You shall not stand by your fellow’s blood”. For since it is speaking of “your fellow’s blood”, the danger of death (and not just a wound, and certainly not just his money) it is prohibited to stand by and to “watch your fellow’s death, but rather he is obligated to save him.
However, on the other hand it is understood, that if the act of saving is possible to cause a danger to the saver, in a manner that it places a doubt on the possibility of the saving – then it is probable to say (in studying this according to the simple meaning - Pshat) that he should not be obligated to endeavor to save his fellow.
And this is why Rashi precisely writes “when you are able to save him”. For even though the Torah exhorts “You shall not stand by your fellow’s blood”, when does it say that a person is obligated to place himself in possible danger (and “You shall not stand by”)? – When it is clear that it is in the ability of the person to save his fellow (“when you are able to save him”), and the possibility of danger does not infringe upon the certainty of the saving. However, if there is a doubt in the matter, a person must not endanger himself for the sake of possibly saving his fellow.
According to this it is understood why Rashi must cite specific examples for the condition of danger of which the Torah commands: “You shall not stand by your fellow’s blood”. For he needs to describe real conditions that contain the two extremes:
And an example such as this is a combination of the two-three aforementioned aspects of danger that will be discussed.
4. The explanation of the matter is:
Rashi has already set a major maxim (many times) in his commentary that “Scripture speaks of what usually occurs“(דבר הכתוב בהווה). And it is understood that in conjunction with this, even Rashi, in his commentary, cites examples from what is usual and common. The same is in our case, namely that the example that Rashi cites is a “usual” and common occurrence (especially in the days of Rashi), namely that the concern of the danger to the saver in is a manner that does not place a doubt on the act of the saving.
In other words:
In a normal situation - the danger of robbers or a harmful beast concerns one who is travelling on the road alone, without a caravan etc. if so, if a person encounters (while he is travelling on the road) his fellow, while a harmful beast or robbers are attacking his fellow - in a normal situation, this is not a condition of “when you are able to save him” (with certainty). On the contrary, he stands in the very same danger as his fellow, and therefore there is no possibility of certain salvation.
Therefore, Rashi cites the examples of “drowning in the river. For this is a usual and common occurrence, in general. And it is also in the realm of the detail of “when you are able to save him”. For when a person is drowning in the river, it is because “He set up a tempest, and it raised its waves“. And the person is exhausted and struggling and so forth. And his fellow (who is on dry land) is certainly able to save the one who is drowning – “you are able to save him”.
And in order to explain that it is speaking of a condition where there is a danger to the saver (even though it is still clear that “you are able to save him”) Rashi adds: “and a beast or robbers come upon him”. In other words, the innovation of the Torah with “You shall not stand by your fellow’s blood” (“Watching your fellow’s death, when you are able to save him”) is to emphasize a situation where the person is drowning in the river, and in addition to this, “a beast or robbers come upon him”. Therefore automatically there is a concern of danger (even) to the saver. For that is the nature of things, namely that when a beast comes to attack (להתנפל) someone who is drowning in a river, and another comes to save him, it will come and also attack the saver. Nevertheless, it is still in the realm of “you are able to save him” (with certainty). For there is no concern that this danger can worsen the ability of the saving itself, but rather there is concern that after the saving, the beast will take revenge on the saver, as aforementioned.
According to this, Rashi’s wording is precise when he writes “beast” plainly and not “harmful beast”. For
(In addition to that which it is not usual and occurring that a harmful beast would come to a river (that is close to an inhabited place), besides this, and primarily)
if a harmful beast would attack him, even the saver would be in a condition of certain danger (in a normal and “usual” situation) that places doubt on the possibility of the saving. And therefore he is not obligated to place himself in such a danger, for the doubtful saving of his fellow.
Therefore Rashi precisely states that it is speaking of a “beast”, plainly. For, in general, this does not pose a danger to the person, for it is afraid of him. However in this example, when one sees a person “drowning in the river” (normally) he thrashes his arms and feet and becomes weak etc. Whereas regarding the saver, who is not in a weak condition etc., it is just a general concern. Therefore the person is obligated to save his fellow, “You shall not stand by your fellow’s blood”.
And with this, the reason that Rashi prefaces “beast” to “robbers”, is also understood:
(In addition to that which, beasts are more common along the banks of a river than robbers, and it is more usual)
with this Rashi is alluding, that the “robbers” here are of a type that is similar to the “beast” that is mentioned beforehand – namely that it is not a harmful beast but rather a plain beast (as aforementioned). Similarly, it is not speaking here of robbers who are prepared to attack any person etc.,
(for then even the saver is in the same certain danger)
but rather such robbers, that are, in general, afraid of people. However when they see that he is “drowning in the river” (that he is very weak) they attack him etc.
5. One could add another reason to this - according to Halacha:
Rashi does not suffice in the examples of “robbers coming upon him or a harmful beast coming upon him” alone, but rather in combination to the example of “drowning in the river” (as aforementioned).
For this is not just because drowning in the river is a normal and “usual” occurrence, but rather because in Rashi’s opinion (in his commentary on Torah) it is also a condition that effects the rescue from a harmful beast or robbers that is tied just to a doubt of danger for the saver (and not certain danger). Moreover, “you are (certainly) able to save him”. Nevertheless, in situations such as this, there is no obligation (according to Rashi on Torah) to place himself in the doubt of danger for the sake of saving his fellow.
And the reason is, according to what has been explained, is that the occurrence of “robbers coming upon him or a harmful beast coming upon him”, (in a “usual” occurrence) is with a person that is travelling on the road alone. Therefore, this person places himself in a dangerous situation. For he should not have been travelling alone, but he should have joined a caravan etc.
Therefore there is room to say, that we are not obligated to endeavor to save him in all ways. For even though it is simple, that if it is in the ability of someone to certainly save another (“you are able to save him”), without placing himself in danger, that he is obligated in this- nevertheless if the act of the rescuing is tied up with the concern of danger to the saver, it is probable to say, that he is not obligated to place himself in possible danger, for the sake of his fellow who put himself in a dangerous place.
6. From the aspects of the homiletic style of Torah (“yayina shel Torah”) which is alluded to in the commentary of Rashi:
The saying of the Baal Shem Tov is well-known that, in everything a Jew sees or hears, he must take a lesson from this in his service to his Master. Seemingly, the things are determined from the saying of the Sages: “Of all that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He did not create a single thing without purpose“ and “Everything that G‑d created in His world, He did not create but for His glory“. From this it is understood that when a person sees or hears a certain thing, one must say that this hearing or seeing is not “in vain”. Moreover, that it is for God’s honor. And this is essence of the saying of the Baal Shem Tov, namely that a person must utilize the hearing or seeing for his service to God, the purpose of his creation, as it states: “I was created to serve my Master”.
And one could say that this is the hint in Rashi’s words “watching your fellow’s death, when you are able to save him” - for they are interdependent. For this itself, namely that you see your fellow in mortal danger (“watching your fellow’s death”), it is a proof that “you are able to save him”. That you have been given the power to save him. For if this is not so, why were you shown this? Indeed it states that God did not create anything– including this sight - in vain!
From this it is also a clear directive especially for our generation. For many of our Jewish brethren are found, because of our many sins, in a condition of dangerous spiritual drowning, in actuality. (and this is included in the “your fellow’s blood”), that the Torah exhorts “You shall not stand by your fellow’s blood”. And the obligation is incumbent upon each and every one to do whatever is in his ability to save them and to enliven their souls.
And if the Yetzer comes with a claim: “who am I and what am I, that I should be able to save the soul of another?” On this Rashi says that “watching your fellow’s death, when you are able to save him”. And as aforementioned in the explanation of the matter, that the very fact that you see his dying – namely that it comes to your attention and knowledge that a certain person is in such a condition, it is a complete proof that “you are able to save him” – namely that you have been given the powers to correct this, and the matter is dependent upon you to restore and revitalize his soul, through Torah and Mitzvot, that you should deal in spreading Torah and Judaism!
And through the effort of each and every one of us, to draw near the hearts of Yisroel to their Father in Heaven, we will bring close and hasten the coming of our righteous Moshiach, who will “compel all of Yisroel to walk in it (the way of the Torah) and rectify the breaches in its observance“, speedily and in our days, mamosh.
MSichas Shabbat Parshat Kedoshim 5746
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