by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Naso (71)Numbers 5:6
6) Speak to the Children of Israel: A man or woman who commits any of a person's sins by committing treachery towards Hashem, and that person shall be guilty. They shall confess their sin which they did and he shall make restitution for his guilt in its principal amount and add a fifth to it and give it to the one he owes it to.
7) They shall confess the sin which they committed and he shall return that which he is guilty of in its principle amount and add its fifth to it, and give it to the one to whom he is indebted.
8) If the man has no relatives to whom the debt can be returned, the returned debt is for Hashem, for the priest, aside from the ram of atonement with which he shall provide him atonement.
committing treachery towards Hashem : Rashi: [The Torah] repeated here the law of stealing and swearing falsely which has already been said in Leviticus (5:21) 'and he commits a treachery towards Hashem and lies to his neighbor' etc. This is repeated here to [teach] two new laws: One is that it says 'he confessed' which teaches us that he is not fined an extra fifth if witnesses testify against him, unless he himself confesses. And the second law is about stealing from a convert, which is returned to the priest (if he dies without relatives).
Rashi here refers to the verse in Leviticus which is very similar to our verse. He says the laws are repeated here to teach us two new laws that did not appear in Leviticus. The law of confessing as a prerequisite for paying the fine of a fifth is clearly mentioned in our verse. But the law of a stealing from a convert is not mentioned. How does Rashi conclude that our verse speaks of a case of stealing from a convert?
Hint: See verse 8.
to the one he is indebted to: Rashi: When he decides to confess his sin. The rabbis have said 'is there a person in Israel who does not have a (relative) to be a redeemer - Either a son or a daughter or a brother or one of the other relatives from his father's family all the way back to Jacob? But this must be referring to a convert who dies with no relatives.
So we see that the verse refers indirectly to a case of a convert who was stolen from.
But if we look at another verse in Leviticus we will have a question.
THE VERSES IN LEVITICUS 25:25 ff
25) If a man becomes poor and sells part of his ancestral heritage his redeemer who is closest to him shall come and redeem his brother's sale.
26) If a man will have no redeemer, but he has enough and finds enough for its redemption.
If a man will have no redeemer: Rashi: Is there a man in Israel who has no redeemer (i.e. relative)? But it must mean a redeemer who has enough money to redeem his sale.
Why doesn't Rashi give the same answer on that verse in Leviticus - that this a convert who has no relatives - as he does on our verse in Numbers?
Hint: Look at the two cases. How are they different?
There are two reasons.
An Answer: The case in Leviticus says "his ancestral heritage", so this cannot mean a convert - a convert's ancestors did not receive a parcel of land in Israel.
Another reason Rashi does not say this is a convert is because there is a more reasonable explanation why he has no relative who can redeem his sale, because none of his relatives have enough money to make the redemption. But in our verse the Torah is talking about receiving the payment of the stolen property. So if the man dies, any relative - rich or poor - can receive it. Therefore Rashi must come on to the less likely possibility that the verse is talking about a convert.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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