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Emor- A Smack of Love

Posted on ט״ז באייר ה׳תש״ע (April 30, 2010) | in Emor | by

A child comes home from school and tells his father that his Rebbi hit him for misbehaving. The father called up the Rebbi and asked him if that was indeed what had happened. The Rebbi confirmed the reports and mentioned that because he was a Rebbi and like a father to his students, he had the right to hit him. (This is supported by the gemara, but I do not remember where it is) The father then asked the Rebbi- could you hug my son like he was your son? When the Rebbi said no, the father responded that in that case, I do not think you had a right to hit my son.

The parsha deals with the subject of the mekalel, the one who blasphemed God. Before Moshe asked God what should be done with this person, he put the mekalel in ‘jail’ as he awaited God’s decion, as the pasukim below show.

10 Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. 11 The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) 12 They put him in custody until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them. 13 Then the LORD said to Moses: 14 “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. 15 Say to the Israelites: ‘If anyone curses his God, he will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death. 17 ” ‘If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death. 18 Anyone who takes the life of someones animal must make restitution—life for life. 19 If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured. 21 Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a man must be put to death. 22 You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.’ ” 23 Then Moses spoke to the Israelites, and they took the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him. The Israelites did as the LORD commanded Moses. A couple questions. Moshe didn’t know what should be done with such a person!? He learned virtually the entire Torah straight from God! Why did he have to ask? Another question is that right after Moshe asks God about the blasphemer, God tells Moshe some seemingly random laws: if one kills another, he is killed. If one injures another, he must pay restitution. What is the message taught by this interruption?

The answer given is that before we can punish someone we must evaluate our intentions and feelings. If we have a feeling of haughtiness, of hatred, we cannot properly punish someone else. Punishment must come from a sense of love for the other person. Thus, the laws about mortality. God is teaching the Jewish People and Moshe that before a man is rightfully killed, I want to show that a human life is immensely important in My eyes, as My creation. If one is slayed, the murderer must be killed in return to show that the value of a human life is so important. (We see that even in that case, when the murderer himself is put to death, those that kill him must recognize the graveness of the matter.)

Only after Moshe realized the importance of a life and the seriousness of the situation, could he properly administer death to the blasphemer. The Jewish People should throw stones at him because he is deserving of death, but they must do so out of love and respect. One can only hit if he can also hug.

(Rabbi Schneider did not answer the first question, but it seems that perhaps God specifically withheld this Law from him until now to demonstrate this point.)


(Courtesy of Rabbi Avi Schneider of Yeshivat Torat Shraga)

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