Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 19   No. 46

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Betzalel ben Yitzchok Yaakov z"l
whose Yohrzeit is 2 Ellul (5747)

Parshas Shoftim

Eidim Zomemim
(Based on the Riva and the Ramban)

" you shall do to him like he planned to do to his brother, and you shall destroy the evil from your midst" (19:19). The Riva cites the Gemara in Makos, which cites the opinion of the Tzedokim (who did not believe in the oral Torah, and) who maintain that Eidim Zomemin are only sentenced to death if the defendant (on whom they testified falsely) has already been put to death. And it is in answer to the Tzedokim that the Chachamim point out that on the contrary, it is only as long as the defendant has not been put to death that the Eidim Zomemin receive the death-sentence, and they learn this from the Pasuk which refers to the defendant as the Eid Zomem's brother, implying that he is still alive (since a deceased brother is no longer called a brother).

The Chachamim do however, require the Beis-Din to have issued the defendant with the death-sentence before the Eidim Zomemin can be sentenced to death. And they learn this from the Pasuk here (Pasuk 21) "A soul for a soul"; and prior to the passing of the death sentence, there is no way that the Torah would refer to the false testimony of the Eidim Zomemin as 'a soul'.


The question arises that, if the Eidim Zomemin are Chayav Miysah for merely having attempted to have the defendant sentenced to death, then how much more so should they be Chayav if they succeeded in doing so (like the opinion of the Tzedokim)? But this is not the case, the Riva explains, because the Torah itself decreed otherwise (as we explained). And the reason for this, he says, is because, due to the serious sin of having attempted to have a fellow-Jew put to death (by means of false testimony), G-d orders the Beis-Din to punish them with the death-sentence, which, as is well-known, serves as an atonement for one's sins.

However, where they actually succeed in having him put to death in this way, the Torah considers it such a terrible sin, that the perpetrators do not deserve atonement in this world. Consequently, the Torah exempts them from the death-sentence, so that they die without an atonement and suffer in the World to Come!


The Ramban explains the Torah's reasoning quite differently. If the second pair of witnesses manages to testify before the defendant is actually put to death, he explains, then it is a sign from Heaven that he is not guilty, and that the first witnesses testified falsely. In other words, G-d sent them in time to prevent an innocent man from the death-penalty. Consequently, the first pair of witnesses must be sentenced to death. If on the other hand, they only arrive after the death-sentence has been carried out, it is a sign that the defendant was indeed guilty, and that the first witnesses testified truthfully, thereby vindicating them of any wrongdoing.

* * *

Parshah Pearls

Money, Horses and Women

"And it shall be when he (the king) sits on the throne (kisei) of his kingdom " (17:18).

Rashi comments that if he carries out the three things mentioned above - to abstain from having too much money, too many horses and too many wives, he will indeed enjoy many years on the throne.

And this is hinted, the K'li Yakar explains, in the word "kisei", whose letters make up the first letters of Kesef (money), Sus (horse) and Ishah (woman).

These three things, the author elaborates, lead a person away from worshipping G-d, which explains why, if the king does not obey them, he will not last long on the throne. Too much money, he says, causes a person to forget G-d (as the Torah testifies in Parshas Eikev, 8:13/14). Too many horses, causes him to lose faith in Hashem, and to trust instead on his cavalry (which explains why the Torah warns not to go back to Egypt to build up a large stable of horses). And too many wives turn a person's heart away from G-d (as we find by Sh'lomoh ha'Melech).

I would suggest however, that the three things correspond to the three key sins - jealousy (money), lust (wives) and (pride) horses (as hinted in the first Pasuk in the Shirah). In that case, the Torah is stressing the importance of good Midos, which a king has to have if he wants to remain on this throne.


Destroying the Evil

"And now, destroy the (one who spilt) innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the eyes of G-d" (21:9). See Rashi.

In one of his explanations, the Rosh explains that performing the various Mitzvos connected with Eglah Arufah, will directly cause the murderer to be found and brought to justice. This is because people will begin to talk about the unusual rituals that took place, with the result that it will come to the attention of the witnesses who will report to Beis-Din to testify on what they saw.


He also cites a number of opinions as to from which part of the body of the victim they measure the distance to the nearest town some say from his navel, others from his neck (the location where he became a cholol (slain), and others again maintain that he is measured from his nostrils - the source of life (as the Torah writes in Bereishis "and He blew into his nostrils a soul of life!").


Destroying Innocent Blood


Surely, asks the Riva, the Torah ought to have written " destroy the blood of the murderer!" , not "the innocent blood"? And he explains that it does indeed refer to the blood of the innocent victim, which is bubbling (with indignation at the injustice), and which will only be stilled when the murderer is finally brought to justice.

He also explains that the purpose of the Eglah Arufah is to attract witnesses to the scene who will identify the murdered man, thereby preventing the deceased man's wife from becoming an Agunah, who will not otherwise be permitted to remarry.

* * *


"Do not move the borders which the earlier ones marked out" (19:14).

This incorporates a warning, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, not to exchange one of the towns of refuge for another town.


" and they shall measure to the cities that surround the slain man (asher s'vivos he'cholol)" (21:2).

The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that the letters of "asher" are equivalent to that of 'rosh' (head). This hints at the opinion that the Beis-Din would measure from the head (i.e. the nostrils - See Parshah Pearls 21:9) of the slain man. And he adds that the Gematriyah of the three words "asher s'vivos he'cholol" is equivalent to 'be'rosho shel cholol' (by the head of the slain man).


"And they (the Beis-Din) shall declare 'our hands did not spill (shofchu) this blood' " (21:7).

The word "shofchu" ends with a 'Hey' (instead of with a 'Yud'), observes the Ba'al ha'Turim, as if to say 'we did not touch him with our five fingers'. Moreover, the Soul of a person comprises five parts (Nefesh, Ru'ach, Neshamah, Chayah & Yechidah).

Indeed, that is why David cursed Yo'av (for having murdered Avner) with five curses - that among his descendants there would be a Zav, a Metzora, a man on crutches, one who would fall by the sword and one who would not have food at his table. All these curses later boomeranged back on him, when Sh'lomoh decided to kill Yo'av instead, and the five curses took effect on five of David ha'Melech's royal descendants.

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