July 7, 2021 10:11 am at 10:11 am #1989137abukspanParticipant
Masei — The Value of Life
ולא תקחו כפר לנפש רצח אשר הוא רשע למות כי מות יומת: ולא תקחו כפר לנוס אל עיר מקלטו לשוב לשבת בארץ עד מות הכהן: ולא תחניפו את הארץ אשר אתם בה כי הדם הוא יחניף את הארץ ולארץ לא יכפר לדם אשר שפך בה כי אם בדם שפכו
You shall not take atonement money for the life of a killer who is wicked, worthy of death, for he shall surely be put to death. You shall not take atonement money for one who fled to his city of refuge to return to dwell in the Land, before the death of the Kohen. You shall not bring guilt upon the Land in which you are, for the blood will bring guilt upon the Land; the Land will not have atonement for the blood that was spilled in it, except through the blood of the one who spilled it (Bamidbar 35:31-33).
By allowing murderers to escape punishment, we bring guilt upon the Land. (See Rashi ad loc.) In truth, the shoresh of חנפ, as in תחניפו and יחניף, is commonly used not to mean guilt but to mean flattery. According to the Sifrei, this is the source of the prohibition against false flattery. And one who flatters someone falsely falls in the category of those who do not receive the Divine Presence (Sotah 42a).
If the word “tachanifu” literally means flattery, how is it understood in our context? How is it possible to “flatter the land”?
The Ramban (see also Malbim and Tur Ha’Aruch) explains that flattering someone means making him appear more noble or worthy than he is. The flatterer does or says something that is the opposite of reality, of “what appears to the eye,” in order to deceive the subject, treating him as righteous when he is anything but. Allowing the perpetrator, an unpunished murderer, to escape justice because of his wealth or power is, in effect, the same thing. It distorts reality and creates a false impression. When he is let go, as if he bears no real guilt, he is being flattered. In return for favoring these truly undeserving people, middah k’neged middah, Eretz Yisrael will appear fertile and productive, yet Hashem will withhold its produce, thereby causing a famine.
Rav Moshe Feinstein (Darash Moshe ad loc.) suggests a more literal understanding of the word flattery. Murder is outlawed in every society, but not for the same reason as it is in Jewish society. In most cases, murder is forbidden because wanton killing would destroy society and civilization. As Rabbi Chanina Segan Kohanim taught: “Pray for the welfare of the government, because if people did not fear it, a person would swallow his friend alive” (Pirkei Avos 3:2). That being the case, if it were to be decided that removing a particular person from society would make the world a better place, his death or murder may be accepted and even extolled. This, Rav Moshe writes, has been the justification behind the most horrific wars in history. And it is this corrupt attitude that allows for, and even values, abortion and euthanasia; there is little regard for “chayei sha’ah,” short-term life, and prolonging the life of elderly or terminally ill patients. The normal revulsion that murder should engender falls to the wayside. The greater good becomes a higher priority than the life of the individual.
This attitude goes against that of the Torah, whose prohibition of “Lo sirtzach — You shall not kill” (Shemos 20:13) stems from the inherent value of human life, unrelated to the person’s ability to produce. On the celestial scales of the Al-mighty, the life of the elderly or the infirm, even for a few moments, is of inestimable value, and no effort is spared to keep such a person alive.
Rav Moshe writes that when a person kills another because he feels the person is a drain on society, he is flattering the earth in the literal sense of the word. He feels that man’s value is secondary; he is only here to serve the world. Contrary to the Torah’s perspective that life, however short or costly, is sacred, he is putting the land and its resources ahead of human life. For this reason, the Torah says, “Ve’lo sachanifu es ha’aretz — Do not flatter the land.”
This principle is taken to another level in a lesson Rav Moshe derives from Parashas Shelach (Bamidbar Ch.13-14). When the Spies delivered their negative report about Eretz Yisrael, Calev silenced the people and encouraged them (13:30), “We shall surely ascend and conquer it, for we can surely do it!” Yet the Spies only continued with their negative report, completely shattering the nation’s trust of Moshe and Aharon. En masse, they began to cry and bemoaned the fact they were ever freed from Egypt. It is in response to this perfidy that Hashem decreed that the men of that generation would die in the desert, never entering Eretz Yisrael.
Regarding Calev, however, it says (14:24), “But My servant Calev, because a different spirit was with him and he followed after Me wholeheartedly, I shall bring him to the Land to which he came, and his offspring will drive out its inhabitants.” Rashi informs us that Calev was rewarded for interrupting the Spies’ negative report and injecting confidence in Bnei Yisrael, telling them, “We shall surely ascend …”
Yet we don’t find that his words had any impact. The Spies rejoined with even more abject and frightening words, leading to the nation’s total demoralization. The decree of their death in the desert was then a fait accompli. So what did Calev accomplish? Why was he rewarded?
Rav Moshe explains that for one fleeting moment, Calev reawakened the trust and confidence of the nation in their ability to conquer the Land. Although his voice was immediately drowned out by the cynicism and pessimism of the Meraglim, during that short amount of time, he succeeded in influencing the Jews for the better. Uplifting the neshamah toward even temporary teshuvah is of immeasurable worth.
Rav Moshe compares this to his discussion in Parashas Masei regarding chayei sha’ah and the eternal value of transient life. Halachah requires that every effort is made toward extending human life, even for just a few moments, and almost all mitzvos are pushed aside to save a life. Life is sacred.
Similarly, chayei nefesh and moments of inspiration and teshuvah, however brief, are regarded as sacred and of the greatest value. While short-lived, Calev’s efforts were of enormous significance. Inspiring others to correct thoughts and beliefs, albeit briefly, is a valuable accomplishment. Thus, he was indeed worthy of the reward he received.
I am reminded of what Rav Avraham Yaakov Pam, rosh yeshivah of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, said at the chanukas habayis of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel’s new beis midrash in 1981 (see Atarah LaMelech p.98). The Gemara (Bava Metzia 33a) tells us that if one finds his father’s lost item and his teacher’s lost item, tending to his teacher’s lost item takes precedence, since his father brought him into This World, and his teacher, who taught him the wisdom of Torah, brings him to life in the World to Come.
The Gemara then discusses to which kind of teacher this law applies. Rabbi Meir defines this rebbi as one who taught him chochmah, the profound analysis of the Torah to be found in the Gemara, not mere Chumash or Mishnah. Rabbi Yehudah qualifies the teacher as a rebbi from which one learned most of his knowledge, whether it is Chumash, Mishnah, or Talmud. Rabbi Yose says that even a rebbi who enlightened his student in the understanding of only one Mishnah falls into the category of a teacher who takes precedence over a father in this situation. Rava further refines the definition of teacher, to include a rebbi who only explained the meaning of one term in the Mishnah. Rava then gives an example of Rav Secḥorah, who taught him the meaning of one item in Maseches Keilim (13:2), “zuhama listeron,” which means a utensil with a spoon on one end and a fork on the other.
Rav Pam asked: Why does merely learning from a person the definition of a kitchen utensil render that person one’s rebbi? By what metric should that person be given priority to one’s own father?
Rav Pam cited Hilchos Talmud Torah (1:4) from the Shulchan Aruch HaRav of the Baal HaTanya to answer the question. The chachmei ha’emes (scholars of the truth) say that a person must perfect his soul by learning all areas of the Torah to the best of his ability. Anyone who is capable of more, but due to laziness failed to gain that knowledge, must return to This World as a gilgul until he learns all that he is capable of.
This, says the Baal HaTanya, is the import of Chazal (Bava Basra 10b) when stating, “Ashrei mi she’ba le’chan ve’salmudo be’yado — Fortunate is the one who comes to the Next World with his Torah study in his hand.” Only one who has a firm grasp of what he, as an individual, is supposed to accomplish will be fortunate when he comes to the Next World. Of that person it can be said, “You have arrived, and you are here to stay!” Conversely, the person arriving without all his potential learning in his hand will have to return to This World as a gilgul.
Rav Pam explained that this is why the Gemara tells us that honor must be given to the person who teaches another person even one small point in Torah and why that person is regarded as his rebbi, who has brought him to Olam Haba. Every second of learning counts and every word makes a difference! Not knowing one part, however small, in Torah, can spell the difference between a glorious life in Olam Haba and returning as a gilgul to Olam Hazeh. Accordingly, the person facilitating such a consequential change deserves the honor he is given.
Rav Pam concluded his speech by suggesting that this is the reason behind the halachah that one is not allowed to touch a goseis, a person on the verge of death, as it may be “mekarev misaso”; it may cause him to die sooner (see Shabbos 151b).
One never knows what is lacking in a neshamah’s fulfillment. All it may take is another word of Torah or thought of teshuvah. Depriving a person of that opportunity may be stealing what his soul needs to find its way back home.
Such is the value of a moment. Such is the value of chayei sha’ah.July 7, 2021 11:29 am at 11:29 am #1989273Reb EliezerParticipant
Lo Tzirtzach goes with anochi Hashem, don’t take away his chelek alokai mimaal. The Aseres Hadibros can also be read across as Rashi explains in Shir Hashirim on Teomei Tzvia.July 7, 2021 1:20 pm at 1:20 pm #1989298Reb EliezerParticipant
Lekan adds up to 101, learning 101 is greater than 100. Ani Li also adds up to 101. A person must care for himself first and then for others as Hilel tells us. There is a vort of the Baal Shem Tov that even learning one letter requires us to respect the rebbi bringing a proof from Doag who thought David Hamelech only two things. He explains that one letter is para verava, multiplies knowledge but Doag taught him ‘only’ those two things nothing else. Therefore a person learning lishma gains ‘many’ benefits. I have an example how one letter creates new knowledge. Whoever adds to the mitzvos takes away because it says, amosayim vachetsi archa, so the GRA explains that the proof is not from amosayim because we would not know the measurements. The proof is from the ‘vov’ of vachetsi as without it we would read amosayim chatzi archa, two is half its length, so the length would be four but like this it is two and a half less than otherwise.July 8, 2021 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm #1989637abukspanParticipant
very nice Gra
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.