Friday, August 30, 2013

post so far for Vayelech

Here is a link to the mobile version of these posts. This will allow you to print each post without worry for the advertisements on the sides.

2012 and 2013

1. YUTorah on Vayelech, for 2012. And for 2013, on Nitzavim and Vayelech.

2. Does Ibn Ezra deny resurrection of the dead from the Torah? A straightforward reading of his commentary would suggest that he disagrees with Chazal's alternate parse, at least on the level of peshat.

  1. Vayelech sources -- from 2008, links by aliyah and perek to an online mikraos gedolos, as well as links to many meforshim on the parsha and haftara. In 2009, more meforshim, plus groupings into categories like Meforshei Rashi and trup. In 2010, further expansion. And in 2011, even more meforshim, in many categories.
  2. YU Torah on parashat Nitzavim / Vayelech
  3. Would Moshe's death pain Yocheved if she was already deceased There are two ways of interpreting the Yalkut Shimoni, and Rav Chaim Kanievsky supports each one. Then, I bring in some girsological evidence.
  4. Hashem is *your* God. Does this make Moshe a heretic Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz asks a question based on a non-existent pesikdarshened in a particular manner. Does this derasha then make Moshe a heretic, as bad as Yeravam ben Navat?
  5. The order of Rashi at the start of Vayelach -  Indeed, some people reorder it.
  6. Elohei Neichar-HaAretz --  Why does the makef connect neichar to ha'aretz, rather than to elohei? How Ibn Ezra, Onkelos, and Shadal deal with this strange phenomenon. This on Vayelech, but I neglected to post it in its time.
  1. Length of days -- Does it refer to long life, or long dwelling in the land of Israel?
  1. Did Ibn Ezra endorse idols? A cryptic Ibn Ezra is interpreted this way, seemingly plausibly, by Mekor Chaim, one of his supercommentators.
  2. An alternative to Ibn Ezra as endorser of idolatry -- I didn't have time to ruminate fully on this, but here is Ibn Caspi's interpretation of this cryptic Ibn Ezra, in which Ibn Ezra is giving a reason against idolatry.
  3. Moshe didn't go anywhere! Despite the pasuk stating Vayelech. And there is no real "difficulty", such that there should be a reason to prefer variants to the masoretic text.

  • "And I am not able"-- does this mean that Moshe physically was not able, due to his advanced age? If so, what about the pasuk describing him in old with the same vigor as in his youth? And how many meforshim grapple with this.
  • A Source for ברכת התורה
    • Actually crosses over to Haazinu and VeZot HaBeracha as well. A neat derivation, or hint, to the practice of saying a bracha, blessing, before and after being called up in shul for an aliya to the Torah.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

YUTorah on Nitzavim and Vayelech

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hanistaros, and not judging kefira

(See my previous post, on judging kefira.)

Here is a nice explanation by the commentator Maamar, which relates to the latest blow-up. Should we judge people for their kefirah-dik views? He says no, that this is what Hanistaros LaHashem Elokeinu means. I don't think that he would extend this, though, to those who are trying to persuade others of these views, to say that we should not make it clear to those others that the views are outside the pale of our defined normative belief.

Starting on these pesukim in Nitzavim:
טו  כִּי-אַתֶּם יְדַעְתֶּם, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-יָשַׁבְנוּ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם, וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָבַרְנוּ בְּקֶרֶב הַגּוֹיִם, אֲשֶׁר עֲבַרְתֶּם.15 for ye know how we dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the midst of the nations through which ye passed;
טז  וַתִּרְאוּ, אֶת-שִׁקּוּצֵיהֶם, וְאֵת, גִּלֻּלֵיהֶם--עֵץ וָאֶבֶן, כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב אֲשֶׁר עִמָּהֶם.16 and ye have seen their detestable things, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were with them--
יז  פֶּן-יֵשׁ בָּכֶם אִישׁ אוֹ-אִשָּׁה אוֹ מִשְׁפָּחָה אוֹ-שֵׁבֶט, אֲשֶׁר לְבָבוֹ פֹנֶה הַיּוֹם מֵעִם ה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, לָלֶכֶת לַעֲבֹד, אֶת-אֱלֹהֵי הַגּוֹיִם הָהֵם:  פֶּן-יֵשׁ בָּכֶם, שֹׁרֶשׁ פֹּרֶה רֹאשׁ--וְלַעֲנָה.17 lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go to serve the gods of those nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood;

"כִּי-אַתֶּם יְדַעְתֶּם -- From the content of these verses until the end of the parasha it appears to me that all of Israel was not yet purified from the impurities of the deficient beliefs that their fathers inherited in the land of Egypt. And upon this it states וַתִּרְאוּ, אֶת-שִׁקּוּצֵיהֶם. And the proof is that Yehoshua commanded the nation, when they accepted upon themselves the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven, [Yehoshua 24:23]

כג  וְעַתָּה, הָסִירוּ אֶת-אֱלֹהֵי הַנֵּכָר אֲשֶׁר בְּקִרְבְּכֶם; וְהַטּוּ, אֶת-לְבַבְכֶם, אֶל-ה, אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.23 Now therefore put away the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD, the God of Israel.'

And Chazal received a tradition that a molten image they brought up with themselves from the Reed Sea.  And behold, the master of prophets [Moshe] knew, via the Soul of Hashem, who made him understand tha there were people in the nation who still, despite all the signs and wonders, did not believe in Hashem and in Moshe His servant with all their hearts, so as not to trust in his blessings
and not to fear his curses, since they thought that these are the mere speakings of lips, the spirit of man established them, and they did not go forth from the mouth of the Supreme. And only from fear of Moshe and fear of the punishment did they serve Hashem in each heart. And upon this it said [in the pasuk above] פֶּן-יֵשׁ בָּכֶם, שֹׁרֶשׁ פֹּרֶה רֹאשׁ--וְלַעֲנָה. That is to say, that now he is but the root [shoresh] but in the multitude of days he will give fruit.

And well did Onkelos translate in accordance with our way, 

כט,יז פֶּן-יֵשׁ בָּכֶם אִישׁ אוֹ-אִשָּׁה אוֹ מִשְׁפָּחָה אוֹ-שֵׁבֶט, אֲשֶׁר לְבָבוֹ פֹנֶה הַיּוֹם מֵעִם ה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, לָלֶכֶת לַעֲבֹד, אֶת-אֱלֹהֵי הַגּוֹיִם הָהֵם:  פֶּן-יֵשׁ בָּכֶם, שֹׁרֶשׁ פֹּרֶה רֹאשׁ--וְלַעֲנָה.דִּלְמָא אִית בְּכוֹן גְּבַר אוֹ אִתָּא אוֹ זַרְעִי אוֹ שִׁבְטָא, דְּלִבֵּיהּ פְּנִי יוֹמָא דֵּין מִדַּחְלְתָא דַּייָ אֱלָהַנָא, לִמְהָךְ לְמִפְלַח, יָת טָעֲוָת עַמְמַיָּא הָאִנּוּן:  דִּלְמָא אִית בְּכוֹן, גְּבַר מְהַרְהֵיר חֲטִין--אוֹ זָדוֹן.
as  גְּבַר מְהַרְהֵיר חֲטִין--אוֹ זָדוֹן -- a man who contemplates transgressions or willful sins. 

(And according to the opinion of Chazal that we brought above in the matter of the idol of Micah, it is possible that it intended with the words אוֹ-שֵׁבֶט [in pasuk 17, cited above] to refer to the shevet of Dan, which strayed after it as is known, and now it speaks about the שֹׁרֶשׁ פֹּרֶה רֹאשׁ--וְלַעֲנָה, and that is the אִישׁ [or isha; now skip o shevet] who is פֹנֶה הַיּוֹם מֵעִם ה

And further, he does not act publicly. Then, Hashem's fury will smoke, etc., until but not including pasuk 21 [Josh: where Hashem will not pardon, and Hashem will separate him from the tribes of Israel, and all the curses of the book shall lie upon him, etc.]. (And Chazal already said that regarding Avodah Zara, Hashem combined thought to action.)

However, when the thought turns to action, and the רֹאשׁ וְלַעֲנָה give fruit, then [Josh: pasuk 21, which talks about comprehensive punishment on all of Israel], וְאָמַר הַדּוֹר הָאַחֲרוֹן.

And it closes with  הַנִּסְתָּרֹת--לַה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ -- this matter is stated directed towards those people who know that their hearts [meaning the hearts of other people] are not complete with Hashem. And he says that even if the hidden secrets of their hearts were revealed before me, even so, I [Moshe] do not have the power to punish them on the ideas of their spirits and upon their thoughts, for the nistarot are to Hashem.

And a great thing said the father of prophets here. And that is that it is not upon the judge to chastise [ליסר] any man on the thoughts of his hears and the beliefs in his heart, if they be known to us prior to their passing into actual actions of man. This because the judges who are placed in the land only judge the actions of man, for the body which acts has its source in the dust, and therefore by law, those who are molded out of material shall bring him in judgement. However, the soul is a divine portion from above, and so only He who Dwells in heaven shall consider its judgement. And this, in my opinion, is the intent of Chazal that a negative commandment which has no action, we do not impose lashes for it."

End quote.

Tangentially, I suspect that that pasuk in sefer Yehoshua comes not necessarily because the Israelites were idolators at that time, but (a) because from Yehoshua's perspective, perhaps they were -- see the context, about the building of the altar, and (b), because of the parallel to Yaakov and his sons in Shechem Note the parallel to trees in both cases, alongside other matching language.

ד  וַיִּתְּנוּ אֶל-יַעֲקֹב, אֵת כָּל-אֱלֹהֵי הַנֵּכָר אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדָם, וְאֶת-הַנְּזָמִים, אֲשֶׁר בְּאָזְנֵיהֶם; וַיִּטְמֹן אֹתָם יַעֲקֹב, תַּחַת הָאֵלָה אֲשֶׁר עִם-שְׁכֶם.4 And they gave unto Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hand, and the rings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth which was by Shechem.

Monday, August 26, 2013

What are the nistaros, the hidden sins?

The famous pasuk in Nitzavim reads:

The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God, but the revealed things apply to us and to our children forever: that we must fulfill all the words of this Torah. כח. הַנִּסְתָּרֹת לַיהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ נקודות) וְהַנִּגְלֹת ֹלָֹנוֹּ ֹוֹּלְֹבָֹנֵֹיֹנֹוּ עַד עוֹלָם לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת כָּל דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת:
But what are these hidden things?

According to Rashi, this is a response to the context above, in pasuk 17-20, which indicated punishment for an individual's thoughts [that his heart will turn to follow other gods, and that on hearing the words of this oath, will reassure himself], followed by pesukim 21-27 describing drastic communal punishment. Therefore, this pasuk comes to clarify. In Rashi's words:

The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God: Now, you might object [to God, saying]: “But what can we do? You punish the entire community because of the sinful thoughts of an individual, as Scripture says, ‘Perhaps there is among you a man…’ (verse 17 above), and after this, Scripture continues, ‘Seeing the plagues of that land [and the diseases with which the Lord struck it]’ (verse 21) [which seems to indicate that for the sinful thought of even one individual, the whole land would be struck down with plagues and diseases]. But surely no man can know the secret thoughts of his fellow [that we could somehow prevent this collective punishment!” In answer to this, God says:] “I will not punish you for the hidden things!” [I.e.,] because “[The hidden things] belong to the Lord, our God,” and He will exact punishment upon that particular individual [who sins in secret]. However, “the revealed things apply to us and to our children” [that is, we are responsible for detecting the sins committed openly in our community, and] to eradicate any evil among us. And if we do not execute judgment upon these [open transgressions, over which we do have control,], then the whole community will be punished [because they would be remiss in their responsibility]. There is a dot placed over [each letter of] the words לָנוּ וּלְבָנֵינוּ here, to teach us homiletically that even for open sins [which were not brought to judgment, God] did not punish the whole community-until Israel crossed the Jordan. For then, they accepted upon themselves the oath at Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, and thereby [formally] became responsible for one another (Sanh. 43b). [When dots are placed over letters of the Torah, this denotes an exclusion of some sort. In our context, our Rabbis teach us that the exclusion refers to the period prior to the crossing of the Jordan.] הנסתרת לה' אלהינו: ואם תאמרו מה בידינו לעשות, אתה מעניש את הרבים על הרהורי היחיד, שנאמר (פסוק יז) פן יש בכם איש וגו', ואחר כך (פסוק כא) וראו את מכות הארץ ההיא, והלא אין אדם יודע טמונותיו של חבירו, אין אני מעניש אתכם על הנסתרות, שהן לה' אלהינו והוא יפרע מאותו יחיד, אבל הנגלות, לנו ולבנינו לבער הרע מקרבנו, ואם לא נעשה דין בהם יענשו את הרבים. נקוד על לנו ולבנינו, לדרוש, שאף על הנגלות לא ענש את הרבים עד שעברו את הירדן משקבלו עליהם את השבועה בהר גרזים ובהר עיבל ונעשו ערבים זה לזה

Rashbam links the nistaros to those he described earlier by the klalot and brachot.

פסוק כח 
הנסתרות לה' אלהינו - כבר פירשתים אצל הארורים על הנסתרות (כי) הנסתרים היו הברכות והקללות, שאין הדבר ליענש ביד בית דין אלא ביד הקב"ה. 

That is, in Ki Tavo. The sins there, as described by Ibn Ezra, Rashbam, and others, are ones committed privately, and Hashem takes care of the punishment. (Thus, they are cursed.) See Rashbam there. Those include a variety of sins.

Ibn Ezra keeps it closer to the overt context, private idolatry:
הנסתרות -הטעם: מי שיעבוד עבודת כוכבים בסתר. 

לה' אלהינו -והטעם: כי משפטו ביד השם והוא יפרע ממנו, ואם היתה בגלוי חיוב לנו ולבנינו לעשות ככתוב בתורה. 

Ramban argues with "meforshim" [presumably Rashi and certainly Ibn Ezra] for saying this refers to private sins of idolatry. Rather, he asserts, it refers to accidental sins. Is he saying that the person is unaware of these accidental sins? I am not sure. Further, he says that Onkelos holds like him:

הנסתרות לה' אלוהינו - על דעת המפרשים: יאמר כי השם אלוהינו לו לעשות משפט בעובדי עבודה זרה בסתר, כי כל התעלומות גלויות לפניו, והנגלות עלינו ועל בנינו לעשות להם את כל דברי התורה הזאת, להכות עובדי עובדה זרה כדין התורה. וגם כפי המדרש (סנהדרין מג ב): כן הוא:

ודעתי בדרך הפשט, כי "הנסתרות" הם החטאים הנסתרים מן העושים אותם, כמו שגיאות מי יבין מנסתרות נקני (תהלים יט יג), יאמר הנסתרות לשם לבדו הם אין לנו בהן עוון אשר חטא, אבל הנגלות שהם הזדונות, לנו ולבנינו עד עולם לעשות את כל דברי התורה הזאת חוקת עולם, שכך קבלנו על אשר ישנו פה ועל אשר איננו פה לדורות עולם. ולפי שהביא באלה לעשות כל המצווה, הוציא מן החרם העושה בשגגה שלא יתקלל באלה הזאת.
ודברי אונקלוס מטין כן, שאמר: 
דמטמרן קדם ה' אלהנא.
ואם כדברי המפרשים ראוי לו לומר דמטמרין לה' אלהנא.

I admit that I am unclear about the Ramban's diyuk in Onkelos here. Onkelos said:

כט,כח הַנִּסְתָּרֹת--לַיהוָה, אֱלֹהֵינוּ; וְהַנִּגְלֹת לָנוּ וּלְבָנֵינוּ, עַד-עוֹלָם--לַעֲשׂוֹת, אֶת-כָּל-דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת.  {ס}דְּמִטַּמְרָן--קֳדָם יְיָ, אֱלָהַנָא; וּדְגַלְיָן לַנָא וְלִבְנַנָא, עַד עָלְמָא--לְמֶעֱבַד, יָת כָּל פִּתְגָמֵי אוֹרָיְתָא הָדָא.  {ס}

Is the diyuk based on the דְּמִטַּמְרָן rather than דְּמִטַּמְרִין ? Or is is the קֳדָם יְיָ rather than ליְיָ? Or both? I think the difference in spelling, which is just a masculine vs. feminine distinction, is incidental, perhaps just a scribal error in the copyists of the Ramban. But the focus is that they are kadam Hashem, before Hashem, as a change from the Biblical Hebrew laHashem. With this change, the meaning is: not before us, such that we need not worry about them. Rather than them being la-Hashem -- for Hashem to punish.

I am not convinced by this diyuk in Onkelos, because the use of kadam as it relates to Hashem is a regular anti-anthropomorphic feature, or a distancing from direct ascription to Hashem, as a mark of kavod.

[Netina Lager mentions this diyuk but does not explain it.]

A final word: Nowadays, should we be focused on the private wrongdoing of others? Yes and no. I am not in favor, in general, of inquiring into the private religiosity of others. E.g. in the hashkafic domain -- so long as people don't go out and make a website to convince others of their views, there is no reason to inquire and cast aspersions on the religious beliefs of some of our more left-wing brethren. Or maybe even to judge them for their beliefs. Bli neder, more on this in another post. Or schools which hold Internet is assur, and take pains to control the private behavior of parents.

On the other hand, many of the sins Rashbam referred to as secret and private sins, in Ki Tavo, had a victim. Someone was secretly perverting justice via bribery, and causing the widow and orphan to suffer. Or cases of incest, where the female victims were not in a position of power, and thus could not make it public. (See Ibn Ezra on these pesukim.) Should we indeed throw up our hands and say that it is up to Hashem to take care of, and we can only take care of the niglot? Well, at the least, when it becomes revealed to us, it is upon us to act and defend the powerless.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

posts so far for parshat Nitzavim

Here is a link to the mobile version of these posts. This will allow you to print each post without worry for the advertisements on the sides.


1. YUTorah on parashat Nitzavim.

2. Nitzavim sources.


  1. Nitzavim sources -- begun in 2008, as links by perek and aliyah to an online mikraos gedolos. Then, in 2009, I added a whole slew of meforshim on the parsha and haftara, organized into sections like midrash, Ibn Ezra and his supercommentators, masorah, and so on. In 2010, further improved and expanded. Now, in 2011, I greatly expanded the number of meforshim. For instance, there are many more meforshei Rashi, and a few kitvei yad of Rashi.
  2. YU Torah on Nitzavim / Vayelech.
  3. Torah is accessible to all --  A lovely homiletic, midrashic, explanation of the pesukim by Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz. We don't need ruach hakodeshmazal, or living in Eretz Yisrael to attain Torah.
  4. Torah on the Moon -- Must we fetch it from there? Did Chazal think we could travel to the moon?

  1. Does Hashem have nostrils? Do they smoke?  I think the Samaritans emended the text because they were uncomfortable with the imagery. Does Rashi endorse a non-corporeal God with his comment?
  2. Length of days -- Does it refer to long life, or long dwelling in the land of Israel?

  1. Is Sefer HaTorah masculine or feminine? Discussing Rashi's explanation of the changing between zeh and zot on the basis of the placement of a tipcha.
  2. Did the Canaanites fool Moshe in the same way the Giveonites did? Trying to understand Rashi, and the way he understood or interpreted the midrash.
  3. Were spirits of future generations present during the covenant in Nitzavim? Tanchuma says yes, but Ibn Ezra doesn't think it is necessary. Abarbanel reinterprets the midrash using philosophical derash, but I don't find it compelling. And I explain how the Tanchuma may have parsed the pasuk differently in order to arrive at this derash.
  4. The trup on the big nose -- how it should be parsed in accordance to the trup, and how it would be parsed if we follow how Shadal would rewrite it if he had his druthers.


  1. Nitzavim as standing or remaining, as a nice blend of peshat and the theme of drash.

  • A source for birchat haTorah
  • The Torah Is Not In The Heavens
    • I suggest that pshat in this instance is the interpretation of the allegory, and that, as a continuation of "it is not too difficult," it means that it is accessible to you.
      The Midrash will take it hyperliterally to refer to Moshe's ascending Mt Sinai, and adds: 

      Moshe said to them, "that you should not say that another Moshe will stand and bring us another Torah from heaven, I therefore preempt this by informing you that there is not left of it in heaven."
      What motivated this midrash? Perhaps this a response to Christians, or to false prophets trying to innovate new law. Also, the "of course" factor - the Jews know Moshe took the Torah from heaven, so what is he adding?
      The Midrash adds other explanation, highlighting the completeness of the Torah brought down - it and the crafts of its trade - humility, righteousness, and uprightness, and the giving of its reward.
      Finally, an anti-Torah u-Madda explanation from Shmuel, who was an astrologer. The Torah is not found in astrologers, whose craft is in {looking at} the heaven. When they protested that Shmuel himself was an astrologer, he responded that he only studied astrology when in the bathhouse. I observe that studying secular matters in the bathroom is a good strategy for increasing time for learning. Note that Shmuel agrees to the value of learning secular subjects such as science, but only at a time when one could not otherwise be learning Torah.
  • A Midrashic Source for Daf Yomi
    • As mentioned above, with the Torah not being in the heavens referring to accessibility/attainability, the Midrash discusses various psukim as referring to Torah seeming unattainable and how one can attain it. Read it all in the post, but it ends with an idea similar to Daf Yomi:

      Rabbi Yannai said, to what is this matter comparable? To a loaf of bread which is suspended in the air {presumably from a string from the ceiling}. The fool says, "who is able to bring it?" And the rational man says, "Did not someone suspend it there?" {And if someone was able to access that space to suspend it there then it must be possible for others to access it as well.} He brings a ladder, or a pole, and brings it {down}. So too he who is foolish says "When will I {have time to} read all the Torah.

      And he who is rational, what does he do? He learns a single perek {chapter} every day until he finishes the entirety of Torah.

      So says Hashem, לֹא-נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ, " it is not too hard for thee." That is, לֹא-נִפְלֵאת הִוא, "it is not too hard." And if it is too hard, מִמְּךָ, "it is from you" that you are not invliving yourself in it. This is what is meant by the verse כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת.
  • רָאשֵׁיכֶם שִׁבְטֵיכֶם
    • "Your tribes" breaks the order of progression from upper to lower classes. After offering my own improbable suggestion, I go through some of the interesting possibilities.
      smichut to mean the heads of your tribes.
      Ramban: Both רָאשֵׁיכֶם and שִׁבְטֵיכֶם are general (
      klal), and the continuation in this and the next verse elaborate.
      Seforno: שִׁבְטֵיכֶם = רָאשֵׁיכֶם
      שִׁבְטֵיכֶם a has at its root שבט, staff, and means leader; The heads who have the shevet, staff, of ruling. (Think of the parallel מטה.)
      Tg Yonatan: Like Seforno, but רָאשֵׁיכֶם of Sanhedrin, שִׁבְטֵיכֶם = officers.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Running Commentary on parashat Ki Teitzei, part iii

See part one and part two. Consider this an interlude, before the actual analysis.

Ki Teitzei continues with rebellious son, the Ben Sorer UMoreh. Chazal say בן סורר ומורה לא היה ולא עתיד להיות ולמה נכתב דרוש וקבל שכר, that the Ben Sorer Umoreh never existed nor will exist in the future, and it is written in the Torah in order to interpret it and receive reward. I intend to show how this is peshat in the pesukim. This will be a lengthy introduction, prior to actual interpretation of the verses.

Recall that, as discussed in part one, the purpose of the legislation regarding the female captive was to restrict the power of the captors. While he indeed was able to to eventually sleep with her, he first needed to allow her to regain her humanity, remove her soiled clothing of captivity, engage in normal hygienic practices (of haircut and trimming her nails), mourn for her family for a decent amount of time, enter a normal calm home, and so on. Then, if he wished to sleep with her, she would not be chattel, and a sex slave. She would be the equivalent of a full Israelite wife. If he changed his mind, he could not simply pass her on as a sex slave to his friend. He would divorce her and let her go free. The moral rules of society restrict the actions of the victors of the battle.

Recall that, as discussed in part two, the purpose of the legislation regarding inheritance of the favored vs. unfavored sons is to restrict the whims of the father. Just because he preferred one wife over the other, he cannot dismiss the rights of the firstborn, because those supersede his individual preferences. This mishpat habechora is set by society. As we see in the Code of Hammurabi, if a father wished to disinherit his son, this is not his choice to make. He would bring his case before judges who would decide on its merits.

The pesukim [Devarim 21]:
יח  כִּי-יִהְיֶה לְאִישׁ, בֵּן סוֹרֵר וּמוֹרֶה--אֵינֶנּוּ שֹׁמֵעַ, בְּקוֹל אָבִיו וּבְקוֹל אִמּוֹ; וְיִסְּרוּ אֹתוֹ, וְלֹא יִשְׁמַע אֲלֵיהֶם.18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, that will not hearken to the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and though they chasten him, will not hearken unto them;
יט  וְתָפְשׂוּ בוֹ, אָבִיו וְאִמּוֹ; וְהוֹצִיאוּ אֹתוֹ אֶל-זִקְנֵי עִירוֹ, וְאֶל-שַׁעַר מְקֹמוֹ.19 then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
כ  וְאָמְרוּ אֶל-זִקְנֵי עִירוֹ, בְּנֵנוּ זֶה סוֹרֵר וּמֹרֶה--אֵינֶנּוּ שֹׁמֵעַ, בְּקֹלֵנוּ; זוֹלֵל, וְסֹבֵא.20 and they shall say unto the elders of his city: 'This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he doth not hearken to our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.'
כא  וּרְגָמֻהוּ כָּל-אַנְשֵׁי עִירוֹ בָאֲבָנִים, וָמֵת, וּבִעַרְתָּ הָרָע, מִקִּרְבֶּךָ; וְכָל-יִשְׂרָאֵל, יִשְׁמְעוּ וְיִרָאוּ.  {ס}21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die; so shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. {S}

Now we see a restriction on family law, that while extreme rebelliousness and familial ingratitude combined with corruption is still a capitol offense, the decision to impose the penalty and the execution of this penalty is taken out of the hands of the mother and father. If they seek to impose this penalty on their son, they must state their case before the the court, which evaluates the situation and comes to a judgement.

There is then certainly a reformative spirit to this law, moving from a more primitive, brutal, and self-interested family law ("he didn't clean up his toys! I'll kill him!") to a fairer, more objective societal law. And it is up to the courts to decide. And Chazal can direct the courts how to decide. Plus, al pi haTorah asher yorucha. As society develops and matures, this entire idea of capital punishment for lack of familial obeisance should really be discarded. And thus, when it is put in the hands of the courts, they can declare that this is not something that should be penalized. Or they can accomplish this using legal maneuverings, by setting the requirements for a valid case extremely high (as the gemara indeed does). Thus, even if at some point in history (and this is likely so), Ben Sorers were punished, once these restrictions were set in place, they have set the bar so high that no Ben Sorer could possibly have existed in the past or could exist in the future. Thus,  בן סורר ומורה לא היה ולא עתיד להיות.

Even so, the Torah is nitzchiyus. Honoring one's parents, avoiding gluttony and drunkenness, etc., is very important, and we often know how important something is by the penalty spelled out by the Torah. This law stays on the books and we can deduce important ideas from it and receive reward. למה נכתב דרוש וקבל שכר.

כִּי-יִהְיֶה לְאִישׁ -- It does not start with כִּי-יִהְיֶה בֵּן סוֹרֵר וּמוֹרֶה, when there be a stubborn and rebellious son. Rather, this is told from the perspective of the man who has this son. Just like כִּי-תִהְיֶיןָ לְאִישׁ שְׁתֵּי נָשִׁים. How shall he be able to deal with his son?

בֵּן סוֹרֵר וּמוֹרֶה -- we have no local definition of what behavior is "stubborn" and "rebellious". Perhaps the continuation of the pasuk forms the local definition, אֵינֶנּוּ שֹׁמֵעַ, בְּקוֹל אָבִיו וּבְקוֹל אִמּוֹ,  or perhaps pasuk 20 distributes across, with sorer as אֵינֶנּוּ שֹׁמֵעַ, בְּקֹלֵנוּ and umoreh as זוֹלֵל, וְסֹבֵא. Thus, with underlying misbehavior as well as unwillingness to heed parental correction.

To be continued, perhaps more in depth.


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