Monday, August 9, 2010

Every widow and orphan, you shall not anguish! (Shemos 22:21)

[click images to enlarge]
Does any shul charge a widow with trespassing simply because she stopped paying dues after the rabbi mistreated her?
The so-called “rabbi” charged the WIDOW with TRESPASSING after she stopped donating to the YOUNG ISRAEL when the “rabbi” tried to force her to bury her husband in a cemetery from which he received kickbacks. He caused anguish to her by preventing the assistant rabbi from conducting the funeral at her chosen cemetery.

If we accept the contention of Civil Court Judge Steven Z. Mostofsky that the parking lot by Young Israel Aish of Las Vegas is "shared" with a motel and an office building, then Young Israel Aish of Las Vegas had absolutely no right to unilaterally inform the Las Vegas Police to maliciously charge the widow Susan Shalov with trespassing in "their" parking lot! For this act of mesirah alone National Council of Young Israel should have invoked disciplinary proceedings and expelled Young Israel of Las Vegas for violating Halacha and Section 3.3.e in the Young Israel Constitution! Instead, they told people to disobey Bais Din and hid the violation.
Shiur of HaRav Y. B. Soloveitchik, zt'l, on Parshas Mishpatim:
"You shall not oppress any widow or orphan". "If you shall oppress them and he shall cry out to me I will listen to his plea". "And I shall be angry and I will kill you through the sword and your wives will become widows and your children orphans". (Shemos 22:21‑23)

The Torah enjoins the Jew from oppressing any widow or orphan. One who commits this action is to be punished by HKB'H (V'Haragti Eschem B'Cherev). The Gemara (Sanhedrin 17b) enumerates the transgressions for which one receives Misah Biyday Shamayim. Why does the Gemara omit the case of oppressing the widow?

The Ramban offers an answer to this question: all other instances of Misah Biyday Shamayim have a natural appearance however the penalty for this sin will be an unnatural death, through the sword. The Ramban and Rashi add that in addition, the death will be unwitnessed and unknown to others leaving the wives of such individuals as permanent widows as well (V'Hayu N'shayhem Almanos Lolam).

The Ibn Ezra notes the transition from the plural (Lo Ta'anun) to the singular (Im Aneh Te'aneh) followed by the plural (Vharagti Eschem). According to the Ibn Ezra, this indicates that if someone observes someone else treating a widow or orphan in this manner and does not intercede on their behalf, the silent observer is considered to have transgressed as well. He too will receive the identical punishment as the one who committed the act. The Torah uses the plural form to indicate that both the transgressor and the observer will be considered guilty (Teanun) and are both punishable by death (Vharagti ESCHEM). In fact, this is the only place we ascribe guilt to both the transgressor and silent observer and both receive the same punishment. For example, one who observes a Jew who desecrates the Shabbos may transgress on the obligation to rebuke his fellow Jew. However he is not considered to have violated the Shabbos on his own. This unique situation of associating the the observer and the transgressor with guilt is to teach us that there is no room for tolerance of any degree of wickedness. One who is tolerant of such behavior is as wicked as the perpetrator. Aneh Taaneh is an application of Lo Taamod Al Dam Rayecha, standing by while a fellow Jew is killed. Even though you personally did not murder the individual, in the eyes of heaven you are still considered a murderer.

The Rav added the following explanation: Mechilta (22) quotes the following: When Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel (the Nasi) and Rabbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol were taken out to be murdered (they were 2 of the 10 Rabbinic Martyrs), Rabbi Yishmael asked Rabbi Shimon w hy he was crying when he was about to fulfill the mitzvah of giving one's life for Kiddush Hashem and will soon enter the world to come. Rabbi Shimon answered that he is crying because of the type of death they were to endure. They were to be executed through the sword (Misas Sayif) which is the punishment reserved for murderers and those who have desecrated the Shabbos. He was concerned lest any passers-by misconstrue them as such unsavory characters. Rabbi Yishmael responded by asking him if he could recall a situation where a woman came to ask him a question and his sexton made her wait until Rabbi Shimon put on his shoes or finished his meal. When Rabbi Shimon said that this did indeed happen, Rabbi Yishmael said that their punishment is fitting as the Torah admonishes anyone that oppresses a widow or orphan punishable by death through the sword (V'haragti Eschem B'cherev). The magnitude of the Inuy does not matter (Echad Inuy Merubah V'echad Inuy Muat). (Note: the Rav quoted from a combination of the Mechilta and the Masechet Smachos, chapter 8. There are different versions as to whether Rabbi Shimon or Rabbi Yishmael was the one crying).

The above Mechilta is telling us that the punishment for intolerance towards the widow or orphan does not necessarily derive from an actual transgression. Even if the act of intolerance appears justifiable and insignificant, it is still a punishable offense if the affected party is offended psychologically. As far as the letter of the law was concerned, there was no obligation of Rabbi Shimon to have come out barefoot to answer the question of the poor woman. (Rabbi Shimon should have realized that the woman might be offended by deferring her question. Rabbi Shimon should have been attuned to the needs of the woman and that she be made to feel welcome and comfortable). Because he unknowingly delayed the woman till he was ready, apparrently Rabbi Shimon was guilty in the view of HKB'H of Inuy Muat.

The above points to a powerful message: that one can transgress Aneh Taaneh even when there is technically no transgression (Maaseh Aveirah). An individual in a position of importance must be vigilant to be attuned to the psychological needs of his fellow man. Failing to show the utmost compassion and attentiveness can result in offending the unfortunate and carry with it grave consequences.

The Torah uses the double syntax, e.g. Aneh Taaneh, throughout these verses. Sometimes a person shows obvious intolerance and persecution of a less fortunate individual. This constitutes an identifiable transgression. It is called Inuy Merubah. There are other times when the intolerance is more subtle and requires an ability to feel the psychological pain of the less fortunate who are offended by direct or indirect actions. This is considered Inuy Muat. In either case, the Torah says Tzaok Yitzak, both types of offended individuals will call out to HKB'H. Hashem will listen to both types, Shamoah Eshma, to the one who cries out from Inuy Merubah as well as the one who cries out from Inuy Muat. (The Rav added that Inuy Merubah causes Inuy Muat. Taking advantage of a widow causes her direct anguish. This is Inuy Merubah. It also triggers the subtle internal feeling of helplessness: that she is being persecuted because her husband is no longer alive to protect her (Inuy Muat). One who does this receives Misah Biyday Shamayim (V'haragti Eschem) and his family is placed in a similar situation (V'hayu Nshaychem Almanos).

This summary is Copyright 1996 by Dr. Israel Rivkin and Josh Rapps, Edison, N.J. Permission to reprint and distribute, with this notice, is hereby granted. These summaries are based on notes taken by Dr. Rivkin at the weekly Moriah Shiur given by Moraynu V'Rabbeinu Harav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveichik ZT'L over many years.

Attack on Reb Moshe Peltz. Reb Peltz was Baal Koreh by Rav Avigdor Miller's shul for 25 years until he retired to Las Vegas.

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