Arab MK Gives Mussar to United Torah Judaism MK:  A Halachic Analysis

MK Moshe Gafni attends a plenary session at the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem, July 26, 2021. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** כנסת דיון מליאה דיבור מדברים משה גפני יהדות התורה

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

By all accounts it was a very strange exchange.  United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni was arguing against PM Naftoli Bennet’s assault on the Rabbinate.  In his argument he pointed out that, under Netanyahu’s leadership, new Covid cases went down to zero.  But under Bennett, the case numbers are out of control.

Gafni called Bennet a murderer.  It was then that Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Ahmad Tibi (of the Joint List) asked Gafni to retract his remark.

Rabbi Gafni instead said that Bennett “is guilty of those who are dying now of the coronavirus.”

Was Rabbi Gafni correct or incorrect in the use of the term?  What did he think originally?  Did Tibi change Rabbi Gafni’s mind?  If so, how did he do it?

What follows is an analysis of the topic through the rubric of Moshe Rabbeinu’s sin:


We know that Moshe Rabbeinu was punished on account of something to do with the rock that would give water to the nation of Israel.

  1. Rashi explains that Moshe was punished for hitting the rock instead of talking to it – and thereby did not allow for a sanctification of Hashem’s Name to happen.
  2. The Ibn Ezra explains that he hit the rock twice, but was only commanded to do so once.
  3. The Rambam writes that Moshe Rabbeinu erred in displaying a subtle degree of anger when he employed the term “ye rebels!”
  4. The Ramban in BaMidbar (20:8), however, asks a pointed question on the Rambam’s interpretation of Moshe Rabbeinu’s statement, “Listen here ye rebels!”   The Ramban asks, how it could be that Moshe Rabbeinu would be punished for use of this term when, later on in Sefer Dvarim (9:24), during the last month of his life he says, “You were rebelling before with Hashem”?  How could he repeat his error?


The Ramban states that there was no subtle error in anger, but rather these words were mere rebuke.  Quoting Rabbeinu Chananel, the Ramban explains that Moshe was not careful in his speech, when he said, “Can we get water from this rock?” instead of, “Can Hashem get water from this rock?”

  1. Rav Shlomo Astruc in his Midreshei haTorah (a rishon) differentiates between calling someone a pejorative name, and attributing a negative action to him. There is thus, a difference between saying, “You lied” and, “You are a liar.”

Rav Malkiel Tzvi Tannenbaum, author of the Divrei Malkiel (Vol. III #75) writes in regard to the Gemorah in Kiddushin (53a) where the person was labelled “Ben Chamtzan” – a thief his entire life because he stole from the lechem hapanim – that there it was necessary in order to warn others about him in regard to the lechem hapanim.  It is indicative in his words that he would agree with Rav Shlomo Astruc.

There is another answer to the apparent contradiction between Bamidbar and Dvarim that could perhaps answer the Rambam.  In Bamidbar – the words were said with a slight degree of anger, while in Dvarim, they were not.

Now let’s plug all this back in.  It could be that Rabbi Gafni initially held like one of the other four explanations.  After, MK Tibi’s remarks, however, Rabbi Gafni may have accepted the fifth explanation of Rav Astruc.

** Please note:  Some people do not necessarily understand the nature and purpose of some of these columns.  The purpose is to look at every life event and news event through the prism of Torah.  Like the concept of pilpul, the motives and thought processes suggested in some of these columns are not necessarily the true inner intents of the protagonists per se.  But they do help us gain insight into our Holy Torah, by means of the news.  Please keep this in mind before you comment.

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  1. he’s such a loser!! nobody thinks that Bennett is causing the corona virus. its just as dumb as saying that trump caused it in the USA!
    he needs to get off his high horse, he lost an election, he’s not apart of the coalition, he needs to understand that he can scream all day long but it means nothing, and he’s making himself look ridiculous!! MK GAFNI, GROW UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Was Rabbi Gafni correct or incorrect in the use of the term? Of-course Gafni was correct, but Gafni rightly so did not wish to be ruffled up by Syrian Ahmad & these wicked security guards and thrown out, as was Be Gevir yesterday, who also was totally correct on what he was doing.

  3. Gafni stated the case well – even with challenges from his non-Jewish taunter. The covid incidence facts and reported adverse effects data have been tampered with and have even disappeared. It is a scam and it is a kiddish Ha-shem and a blessing for us that an MK like Gafni has been able to do research and call others on this terrible facade.

  4. Is the author seriously suggesting that the Arab MK raised a Torahdik proper analysis of the Yid’s speech?: MODERATOR: READ THE END OF THE PIECE