Vertluch: Parshas Mishpatim


The pasuk says ‘one who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.’ (21; 15) Rashi notes that the death one receives is referring to death by strangulation. However, two pasukim later the Torah says ‘one who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.’ (21; 17) Rashi comments that the death for cursing is referring to death by stoning. Stoning is usually classified and reserved as the harshest of punishments while strangulation is usually spared for the more lenient offenders. When placing the two actions side by side, one would obviously believe that raising a hand to a parent would be much worse than uttering a curse at them. If so, why would the more severe punishment be set aside for one who would seem to have committed a more lenient aveira by cursing their parents?

Furthermore, we find that the Torah is stricter if one commits an action over one uttering some words. Dibur, speech, is never considered to be an action while hitting is. Needless to say, cursing would fall under the category of speech. Aveiros that require an action are always treated more severely. So what seems to be an explanation here?

R’ Mordechai Druk, Zt’l offers two ideas.

Anytime a person commits an aveira with a limb, that limb becomes tainted. However, when one commits an aveira through speech, he is soiling what separates man from an animal – the power of speech. Targum in Bereishis tells us what differentiates us from animals is our ‘ruach mimaleluh’; the ability to speak; as that’s what validates man. When one uses it to sin, and taints it, he is corrupting what separates him from an animal. We therefore treat it with a much more severe punishment.

A person has to know that if they were to abuse the gift that Hashem gave us-which separates us from animals-they are like an animal. There is no greater abuse than to use it to curse ones parents! Ultimately they have stained their neshoma as ones speech is connected to the neshoma.

A second thought brought down is that many times throughout our lives we stumble and commit an aveira. Many a time one can justify it and say we were caught off guard and had a weak moment. We can say we briefly forgot the existence of Hakadosh Baruch Hu and the tayva blinded us for a bit. However, when a person who curses his parents in order for them to be punishable by death it is only if they used the sheim Hashem to curse his parents (Sanhedrin 66). One won’t be able to justify that because he used Hashems name; you remembered Hashem and used His name to curse your parents. You decided to use the ultimate tahara and blemish it with the ultimate tumuh.

People get angry; but when one gets angry and loses himself we can try justifying their actions somehow. But not when one uses the name of Hashem to curse his parents. Sometimes people throw Gods name in it. Don’t drag God into it. You want to say you forgot about Hashem for a bit, ok. But don’t drag Hashems name into it a sit will call for a much more stringent punishment.

We see how delicate the power of the tongue is. On one hand we daven and learn with our mouths, but at the same time these same limbs can be used for destruction. May we work on ourselves that our lips are only used for kedusha.