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Talmud English-Sanhedrin     Rambam-Hil.Sanhedrin       Radvaz  



"The soul of man is not his possession but rather the possession of G-d . . . but his money is his own" (Radvaz on Rambam Hil. Sanhedrin 18:6)

The difference between man's soul and his money and the debate in the law of Bircat HaNehenin.

The hint in the law (Tal Sanhedrin 2b) that "In accordance with the Biblical law, the juridical procedure in regard to the investigation and examination of witnesses applies to monetary as well as to capital cases"

Explanation of the story of one of the great Chassidim that at the conlusion of his accounts wrote:
"There is no other but Him"

((5747 Vol 34 XXXIV Pg 106)


1. Rashi writes (Hil. Sanhedrin 18:6):

“It is a Scriptural decree (Gezeirat HaKatuv) that the court does not execute a person or have him lashed because of his ownership admission. Instead, the punishments are given on the basis of the testimony of two witnesses“

In other words, even though we rule that “the testimony of a defendant is like one hundred witnesses” nonetheless this is just to obligate him with monetary restitution, but not to obligate him (through his ownership admission) with death or lashes.

The Radbaz (R' David ben Shlomo ibn (Abi) Zimra 1479-1589) comments on this:

“It is possible to give somewhat of a reason for this. Since the soul of a person is not his possession but rather the possession of G-d, as it states ‘The souls are Mine’, therefore his admission does not help with something that does not belong to him, and lashes are considered a part of death. However, his money is his ownership. Therefore, we say that the testimony of a defendant is like one hundred witnesses. . Nevertheless, I admit that this is the decree of the King of the world and one may not question it. (ואין להרהר)”

Seemingly, one must examine Radbaz’s words.

For what is the distinction between souls, which are G-d’s possession, versus the entire world, which is “G-d’s possession”, as it states, “To G-d is the world and its fullness”.

This is as the Chinuch states that, “Everything is in the domain of the Master of all” – including one’s money, as the verse states, “Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold, says the L-rd”?

Therefore, one must say that even though the entire world belongs to G-d’, nevertheless, with regard to a person’s domain there is a major difference between his soul and his money.

2. One could say the explanation of this is:

The soul and vitality of a person is given by G-d to him only as a deposit (פקדון), and not into his own ownership. This is like the ruling of the Alter Rebbe in his Shulchan Aruch that “a person does not have permission at all over his body to strike it etc.” Therefore, according to this, that which a person is forewarned not to damage his body is not just an aspect of prohibition, but rather this is also falls under the laws of possession (מדיני קנינים) – namely that he does not have permission (domain) over his body.

(for the body is G-d’s possession, that has been entrusted to the person as a deposit (בתור פקדון))

Whereas a person‘s money has been given to him in a manner that he becomes an owner of this money (similar to the verse, “and the earth has been given to man”( והארץ נתן לבני אדם)) Therefore, the reason that “a person must be careful with his possessions (להזהר במאודו) not to lose, destroy or damage them” is not because the money is not his, but rather because this is a prohibition, for he transgresses the Negative Command of Bal Tashchit (do not destroy or waste).

This is not a contradiction to the verse, “Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold, says the L-rd” (and so forth). For G-d’s ownership, which derives from G-d’s creating the world and conducting it etc., is a general ownership (בעלות כללית). Thus even after the money has been given to the person, it does not leave G-d's ownership. So much so, that He can take it from him.

(This is similar to Rashi’s wording (with regard to the earth, and to Eretz Yisroel in particular),

“All the earth belongs to G-d. He created it and gave it to whomever He saw fit. It was His will to give it to them and it was His will to take it from them and give it to us”.

Thus, even though, at the onset he “gave it to them”, as a complete gift (בנתינה גמורה), nevertheless afterward “with His Will, He took it from them and gave it to us”).

Therefore, since a person has ownership of his money – therefore the law concerning it (his money) is that, “the testimony of a defendant is like one hundred witnesses”. Whereas with everything that is related to his body and soul, which remains entirely in G-d’s ownership, and has been entrusted to the person just as a deposit – the person is not the “master” (בעל) over them and therefore, we do not obligate him, due to his admission, with lashes and so forth.

3. One can bring a proof for this distinction between the soul (and body) of a person, versus his money – from the laws of Blessings of Enjoyment (ברכות הנהנין):

The Sages state (and it is cited as Halacha):

“One is forbidden to derive benefit from this world, without reciting a blessing beforehand. . And anyone who derives benefit from this world without a blessing, it is as if he is guilty of misuse of a consecrated object (מעל). . It is as if he enjoyed objects consecrated to the Heavens (קדשי שמים), as it is states: ‘The earth and all it contains is the L-rd’s’”.

However, one is not obligated in Blessings (ברכת הנהנין) except on something that one’s body has benefit from (such as eating, drinking etc.). Whereas, when a person has benefit from money (הנאת ממון) (receiving money etc.) no blessing was enacted on this.

Seemingly, this is not understood:

What difference is there between physical benefit and monetary benefit. With both of them, a person is deriving benefit from this world, of which it states, as aforementioned “The earth and all it contains is the L-rd’s”. Why is not misuse (מועל) through “enjoying objects consecrated to the Heavens” when he enjoys money without a blessing?

(Although we find many Mitzvot that are performed with a person’s possessions, the purpose of which

(as is elucidated in the books that explain the reasons for the Mitzvot)

is to imbue in the person the recognition that “The earth and all it contains is the L-rd’s

(Like the Mitzvah of Shmittah) (as in this year) whose purpose is that “a person's actions during this year should indicate . . that he has no specific property, but that everything is the property of the Master of All”.

And also the Priestly gifts (מתנות כהונה), Ma’aser etc. whose purpose is “in order that all should know that everything is His”)

nevertheless, it is understood and simple that this aspect is not at all similar to Blessings of Enjoyment. For the Mitzvah is that the person of his own will declare his field ownerless in the Shmittah year etc.

To note, these Mitzvot concern a part of a person’s possessions. Which is not so regarding - the law of Blessings of Enjoyment – where it is forbidden to derive any benefit (even a trace (אפילו כל שהוא)) without a blessing. Therefore, seemingly it is not relevant to our case).

One could say, according to what has been previously explained, in the difference of the scope of ownership over a person’s money versus over his soul and body that:

Regarding the soul and body of a person which are “G-d’s possession”, in a manner that the person has no ownership over them - even their enjoyment is similar to them – namely that it (the enjoyment) is G-d’s possession. Therefore, they are “objects consecrated to the Heavens”, which is forbidden to enjoy without a blessing.

Although it states in the Talmud that only before the blessing, they are considered, “objects consecrated to the Heavens”. Whereas after the blessing they are in the state of, “and the earth has been given to man” (“it is for people”) – the intent of this is not that through the blessing, they change to become the possession of the person.

(For even afterward, we say “Blessed be He, that we have eaten from His bounty”).

Rather the intent is that through the blessing, the status of “objects consecrated to the Heavens” (which are forbidden from deriving benefit from) is removed from them, and they are permitted to be enjoyed. Nevertheless, one is not deriving benefit from his own possession but rather from G-d's. G-d gives them to him in a manner that it should be his – even in order to eat (destroy) them etc.

Whereas the articles of a person and his money (of themselves) from the very onset are not in the realm of “objects consecrated to the Heavens”. For they were handed into the ownership of the person. Therefore a blessing is not required to permit deriving benefit from money.

(However, in order that a person recognize that his ownership does not remove, G-d forbid, G-d’s (general) ownership over his money, he was given Mitzvot with his money etc. “in order to show that everything belongs to Him”(as aforementioned).

4. However, this itself requires a reason:

What difference is there regarding a person’s money, that was given to him in a manner that he has ownership over, versus his soul and body that remain G-d’s possession. So much so that “a person does not have any domain over them, at all”?

Seemingly, one could say that this is Radbaz’s intent in the conclusion of his words

“Nevertheless, I admit that this is the decree of the King of the world and one may not question it”.

For this aforementioned difference between one’s soul and his money is not an intellectual aspect, but rather it is the “decree of the King of the world”. Namely, that domain and ownership was given to the person over his money, yet not over his soul and body.

However, in the words of Radbaz “It is possible to give somewhat of a reason”, even to this:

From G-d’s perspective, there is no difference at all between a person’s soul and his money. For the entire world and its fullness thereof, is G-d’s, truly equally. However, there is a difference between them from man’s perspective:

Regarding one’s body and soul – they were given to him in a manner that G-d’s ownership over them is recognizable. For each day he says, “the soul that you have given me anew”. He is obligated in Torah and Mitzvot etc. etc. and he feels in his body the holiness of the soul. Moreover, even in the body of a Yisroel there is holiness. Therefore, since he was created in a manner that G-d’s ownership is recognizable in them, it is out of the question that the person should have the status of domain over them.

Whereas with regard to one’s money, it is in a manner that it does not have (this) sanctity and G-d’s ownership is not recognizable in it.

Since the Torah was given below specifically in this world,

(In a place where G-d’s ownership is not recognizable in it),

therefore, in the laws of the Torah, a person has control and domain over his money and possessions.

(However, one must know and recognize that this ownership itself was given to him from Heaven (G-d) for ‘The earth and all it contains is the L-rd’s’, as aforementioned).

5. According to this, one can also explain a difference between Dinei Mamonot (monetary matters) and Dinei Nefashot (capital cases):

The Talmud states, “By Torah law (דבר תורה), both cases of monetary law and cases of capital law (אחד דיני ממונות ואחד דיני נפשות) require inquiry and interrogation of witnesses. . And what is the reason that the Sages said that in cases of monetary law we do not require inquiry and interrogation of witnesses? The Talmud answers: The Sages established this exemption so as not to lock the door in the face of potential borrowers”.

(“They will be deterred from lending since the borrowers might dispute the loan and the witnesses may err and their testimony will not coincide thereby causing the lender to lose”.)

Plainly, the reason that according to “Torah law” even cases of monetary law require inquiry and interrogation and the Torah was not concerned about “locking the door in the face of potential borrowers” -

And in general, one could say that the reason for the multitude of matters of that the Sages enacted as a fence for the Torah, and the decrees of the Sages because they were concerned for mishap and error etc., whereas from Biblical Law (מדאורייתא) there is no concern –

is because the laws of the Torah, follow the rule that all Yisroel have ‘Chezkat kashrut’ (כל ישראל בחזקת כשרות) - the presumption of a reliable reputation, and their conduct attests to this. Therefore, there is no place for concern etc. and in our case to worry that “the borrower might dispute the loan” and require the lender to produce witnesses.

However, when the swindlers etc. proliferated (כשרבו הרמאין), there is cause for concern that the borrower might dispute the loan. Therefore, the Sages saw a need to enact laws in order that the door not be “locked in the face of potential borrowers”. The same applies to the other general concerns and decrees that were enacted when they saw that if the early generations were like angels, the latter generations were like people. And if the early generations were characterized as people, the latter generations are akin to etc.”

One could say that the change in condition due to the decline of the generations (ירידת הדורות) is

(Not just that there was a proliferation of borrowers that were swindlers etc., but rather)

– even on the part of the lender. There was concern that the lender would deter from lending because he was afraid that “the borrower would dispute the loan etc.”

However, due to “Torah law” (that is connected to the condition of a Yisroel as is befitting – like angels and people), there is no concern for this.

One could say that the explanation of this aspect is:

Due to “Torah law” – all one’s money is not entirely under his control and domain. Rather only the portion that he uses for mundane things (לדברי רשות) (like the wording of the Mishnah “all of your deeds (כל מעשיך)).

For since it has been given to him to utilize according to his desire (for things that are permissible according to Shulchan Aruch), they are under his domain and ownership.

Whereas regarding the money that is necessary to fulfill Mitzvot, they were not, at the very onset, given to the domain of the person and it is just a deposit to him (like his soul) in order to enable him to fulfill with it, the desires of Heaven (חפצי שמים).

This is similar to the explanation of the Rebbe Rayatz regarding Tzedaka (and to lender’s funds),

“When a wealthy person graces a poor person (with funds) indeed, the money is not his at all. It is G-d’s money that has been deposited by him (the wealthy person) for use at a certain time and period”.

Therefore, there is no place to worry that the “door will be locked in the face of potential borrowers”. For when the possibility comes into one’s hand, to fulfill the Mitzvot of Gemilut Chassadim (through the loan), he certainly has alacrity to fulfill G-d’s command to loan to the poor person. Moreover, he does not refrain from lending due to any concern of the “possibility of dispute”, since he knows and recognizes that the money is not his, but rather G-d’s – who commanded him to loan to poor people (and he caused him to come in contact with this poor person)( וזימן לידו עני זה).

One could say that this is the allusion why it states, “By Torah law, both cases of monetary law and cases of capital law etc.”:

For when the condition of a person is proper (according to “Torah law”) he feels that truthfully there is no difference between the aspects of his soul and his money. For he knows that even the money that has been entrusted to him, is G-d’s.

However, after the decline of the generations etc.,

(For even the world “declined” and became more coarse),

man’s condition (and the world) were changed in a manner that there is a difference between “capital laws” and “monetary laws”. One does not feel that his money does not belong to him and that it is really G-d’s. Therefore, “They said that cases of monetary law do not require inquiry and interrogation so as not to lock the door in the face of potential borrowers.”

6. According to this, another detail of this Halacha, is fitting:

The Halacha, that in monetary cases, one does not need “inquiry and interrogation” is, according to many opinions, not just regarding loans and admissions - where one party admits that he owes another money­ (הלוואות והודאות)

(which entail the concern of “locking the door in the face of potential borrowers”)

but also regarding “theft, personal injury, Ketubot, inheritance and endowments - in all these one does not require inquiry and interrogation of witnesses in order to lock the door in the face of thieves.

(that would steal on the basis that witnesses that can corroborate their testimony will not be found)

Seemingly, according to these views it is somewhat problematic:

Why did the Talmud cite the reason of “not to lock the door in the face of potential borrowers” (which just concerns loans and admissions) yet not (also) the reason of “to lock the door in the face of thieves”

(especially since this reason also applies to loans and admissions – to “lock the door in the face of one who wants to dispute the lender on the basis that witnesses that can corroborate their testimony will not be found)?

However, one could say according to the aforementioned, that with this, the Talmud is telling us an innovation with regard to the “Torah Law”. Namely, that in the conduct that is demanded due to “Torah Law”, not only is there no place to be concerned about thievery and dispute etc., but moreover, there is no difference to a person (the lender) between “capital laws” and “monetary laws”. For he recognizes that his money is not his own, but rather G-d’s.

This is emphasized in the reason of “to not lock the door in the face of potential borrowers” (that one does not lock the door in the face of the borrower due to concern etc.), as aforementioned, at length.

7. It states in the verse, “you are My witnesses, says G-d”. Bnei Yisroel attest, as it were, to G-d’s existence in the world.

The aspect of testimony is to reveal something that is hidden (דבר הסתום). For something that is revealed to all, does not need testimony. Even with something that will be revealed in the future (וגם במילתא דבעתיד עבידא לגלויי), the Torah does not require testimony. Rather testimony is on “something that is completely hidden”( הנעלם לגמרי).

The same is in our case:

 The reason that Bnei Yisroel are called “My (G-d’s) witnesses” is because their task is to reveal the existence of G-d even in the aspects of the world. Namely, that even in the “Olam/world” (from the root “hidden/he’elem”) that hides and conceals G-d’s mastery – so much so that according to Torah its aspects were given into the domain and ownership of the person – one must reveal that everything exists just from “the truth of His being”. Therefore, in truth, there is no (true) being besides G-d as it states, “there is none beside Him” (אין עוד מלבדו).

This is exemplified by the story of one of the outstanding Chassidim of the Alter Rebbe (R’ Binyomin Kletzker) who was a businessman in the lumber trade. Once, after making a detailed calculation of his expenses and revenue, when he came writing the “sum-total” (סך­הכל) of the entire accounting, he wrote “there is nothing besides Him”.

It is understood and also simple, that the reason that the aforementioned Chosid wrote this, is because he truly felt this, namely that this was the sum-total of the business that he actually did.

In other words, the aspect of “there is nothing besides Him” was imbued in all his being and dealings. Therefore, when he reached the “sum-total” of the aspects of his business – he wrote the (complete) truth – “there is nothing besides Him”.

To explain this on a deeper lever, one must preface a question:

Since the aspect of “there is nothing besides Him” was constantly engraved on the heart of that Chosid – why did he write this only on the last line of the accounting, whereas in the previous lines, he noted the specific numbers and merchandize etc. as is customary? He should have written this (“there is nothing besides Him”) on every line (in the place of the amounts of merchandize etc.)!

However, the explanation of this, is that on the contrary, this is the innovation (of the aforementioned story):

Certainly, every one of Bnei Yisroel (who have the benefit of a reliable reputation) have the ability to feel that “there is nothing besides Him”, through contemplating deeply that “All the beings . . only from the truth of His being” and so forth.

However, this recognition may come when one contemplates etc. it, such as during prayer and study, when he alone and separated from the aspects of the world.

However, when the person is dealing with business matters etc., that according to nature, hide and cloak G-d’s existence, it is difficult for him to feel, at that time, that “there is nothing besides Him”.

This, therefore, is the thrust of the aforementioned story, namely that the Chosid was then, according to the command to deal with his livelihood, in a state where he wrote all the particulars of his accounting, exactly etc. In other words, his occupation, at that time, was not in matters contemplating the greatness of G-d etc., but rather in business matters. Nevertheless, since he was totally imbued with the recognition that “there is nothing besides Him”, therefore, even in the midst of his making this accounting, the recognition came into complete revelation, at the conclusion of the accounting that the “sum-total” and purpose of all his business and aspects is – “there is nothing besides Him”.

Through this Avodah, namely to reveal in the entire world that there is a Conductor of this palace (יש מנהיג לבירה זו), so much so that it leads to the recognition that “there is nothing besides Him” – we will merit the standing and state that there will be no need for the aspect of the said “testimony”. For the tidings of, “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see that the mouth of the L-rd spoke”, will be fulfilled.

With the true and complete Geulah through our righteous Moshiach, speedily and in our days, mamosh.

Msichas nineteenth of Adar, Shabbat Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudei 5745



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