Sharing Torah Insights

Taking Responsibility

Posted on ט״ו באייר ה׳תש״ע (April 29, 2010) | in Emor | by

At the end of this week’s Parsha we come across an interesting story. A man, born to a Jewish mother (from the Tribe of Dan) and an Egyptian father, gets into an argument with one of the other Jews. In the course of the disagreement he pronounces the name of Hashem and curses Him. The people bring the man to Moshe and place him in jail while Moshe asks Hashem for advice. God instructs them to take the man out of the camp, to have the people who heard him curse Hashem place their hands on his head and then stone him to death.

The Midrash, filling in some gaps in the story, tells us that the argument was about whether this man was entitled to place his tent with the rest of the Tribe of Dan, since tribal association is patrilineal. The Dan-ites didn’t want this man camping with them, and are backed by Moshe, who rules that the Dan-ites have the right to not allow him in their camp. The man leaves Moshe in frustration, continues his fight with someone else in the camp, and ultimately curses God.

This Midrash is quite hard to understand. Even if Dan wasn’t obligated count the blasphemer as a member of their tribe, wouldn’t it still have been a good gesture to allow him to stay there? He didn’t really have anywhere else to go, as he surely didn’t belong to any of the other tribes!

Further, even if he wasn’t a particularly nice person and they were justified in not wanting him around, why did the Jew allow the blasphemer to pick a fight with him? It was surely possible for them to handle this situation without getting drawn into one-on-one quarrels with him, and the man’s temper would not have flared to the point of cursing Hashem. There seems, however, to be no criticism levied against Dan or the man who argued with the blasphemer.

Rashi (citing a different Midrash) makes a very insightful comment when analyzing the punishment given. What is the point of having the people who witnessed the event place their hands on the blasphemer’s head? We don’t see this action in other places that stoning is discussed. Rashi says that they placed their hands on his head to tell him “דמך בראשך ואין אנו נענשים במיתתך שאתה גרמת לך” (“Your blood is on your own head! We are not to be punished for your death, for you brought this upon yourself!”).

The lesson here is clear. This is man who comes from a broken family, who was pushed around by the people he considered the members of his Tribe and was provoked further by another individual. Yet ultimately he alone is responsible for his actions and must take full responsibility for them.

How many times do we blame our circumstances for mistakes we make?

Shabbat Shalom and have a great Lag BaOmer!

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2 Responses to “Taking Responsibility”

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  2. Patty Bernstein says:

    Yasher koach, Liron. Thought-provoking. Responsibility certainly is a main issue … but also consider that the blasphemer’s words/actions reflected on the whole Jewish people. Perhaps, we must not only take responsibility for ourselves, but for how we are seen as a part of the greater whole. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. PattyB


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