Category Archives: Devarim

Parshas Shoftim

And you should to do him as he planned to do to his brother (Devorim 19/19).

This possuk speaks about the punishment of two witnesses who testified against a certain person that he deserves the death penalty. After that, two other witnesses come before Bais Din and testify that the first set of witnesses are invalid because at the time of the event on which they testified, they were in a different place and that it is impossible that they witnessed that event. (aid zomaim)

Our possuk teaches that the punishment for such a case is that the first set of witnesses are put to death in the same way that they planned that the defendant would be put to death.

Rashi explains that these witnesses are put to death only if Bais Din has not yet put the defendant to death. However if the second set of witnesses didn’t come to Bais Din until after the defendant is killed they are exempt from being killed.

He learns this halacha from the wording of the possuk, “as he planned” which implies, “as he planned and not as he did”.

Zera Shishmon asks (in the name the sefer Liviyas Chain) that although this din, that if the defendant is killed the aidim zomamiem are not killed, is mentioned in Chazal the Mishne derives it from a different possuk. It is written in the Mishna (Mesechta Makkos 5a) “…. the Tzaddukim contended that the zomamim were put to death only after the accussed was put to death, like it is written in Chumash, “a soul for soul”. The Chachamim said back to them, It says in Chumash you shall do to him what he planned to do his BROTHER. The words “his brother clearly implies that his brother is still alive (because after his is dead he is not his brother anymore!).”

How can we reconcile Rashi who derives it from the words “And you should to do him as he planned to do…” and not as he did, with the Mishne that derives this din from the word “his brother” which implies that his brother is still living?

Zera Shimshon answers that in truth the Tanna of the Mishne holds like Rashi that we learn it from the words “as he planned….” and not from the words “his brother”. (This has to be the case, since we find that the Gemorro in Sanhedrin learns a different din from the words “his brother”.)

The Tanna only wrote that we learn it from the words “his brother” to counter-argue the Tzaddukim who hold that we kill the witnesses ONLY if Bais Din killed the defendant. Since the Tanna knew that the Tzaddukim don’t agree with the din that our Gemorra learns from “his brother” therefore he reasoned that in their minds the words “his brother” are extra. He therefore argued that from those words we learn that the defendant must be alive in order to punish the witnesses. However, in truth he also holds that we learn it out from the words, “as he planned….”
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Parshas Reah

Rebbi asked R. Yishmael the son of R. Yosie, “What do the wealthy people of Eretz Yisroel do to merit (wealth)? (He replied) they give tithes (maaser) as it is written aaser t’asser (lit. You should truly give a tithe). Meaning give a tithe (aaser) in order to become wealthy (t’aaser is spelled similarly to titasher- to become wealthy). (Shabbos 119A)

Zera Shimshon points out that the wording of the Gemorra “give maaser IN ORDER to become wealthy” implies that we can do this mitzvah with the intent to be rewarded! He asks how is this consistent with the mishna in Pirkei Avos (1/3), “Do not be like servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward but rather be like servants who serve their maser without the express intention of receiving a reward…”

He answers in light of two Gomorras.

The first ax Gemorra is in Mesechta Berochos (31A), “Rabbah said, ‘A man may employ devious tactics with his crops by bringing them into his house while still in its chaff so he will not have to give maaser“.

In other words, Raba teaches us that there is way to circumvent this mitzvah and eat crops without separating maaser. Since crops are chiyav in maaser only if it is brought into a house after the chaff is removed, one is permitted to bring it into a house before the chaff is removed in order to be exempt himself from (at least) the Torah obligation to give maaser.

The other Gemorra is in Mesechta Sotah (14A). “R. Simlai expounded: Why did Moshe Rabainu yearn to enter Eretz Yisroel? Did he want to eat its fruits or satisfy himself from its bounty? (Surely not.) Rather Moshe said to Hashem, “There are many mitzvos that were commanded to Yisroel which can only be fulfilled in Eretz Yisroel. I want to enter Eretz Yisroel in order to fulfill them!” HaKodesh Baruch Hue replied to him, ‘Is it only the reward (for fulfilling the mitzvos) that you want? I will ascribe them to you as if you did them!'”

From the fact that Moshe accepted Hashem’s response and didn’t continue to plead with Hashem, we see that Moshe’s was very concerned to receive reward for doing the mitzvos.

The Maharsha asks how can we understand this? Seemingly this openly contradicts the mishne in Pirkei Avos (1/3), “Antiginos of Socho…. would say, ‘Do not be like servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward but rather be like servants who serve their maser without the express intention of receiving a reward…'”!

The Maharsha answers that this principle, to serve Hashem without intending to receive reward, is only concerning mitzvos that we are obligated to do. However, in the case of Moshe there was not yet an obligation to perform them, since they still didn’t enter Eretz Yisroel, there is nothing wrong to wanting to get rewarded for doing that mitzvah. (In Parshas V’eschonnon Zera Shimshon gives another explanation of this Gemorra.)

Concludes Zera Shimshon, that is now easy to understand why we can perform the mitzvah of giving maaser even with the intent to receive reward. Since we could exempt ourselves (by bringing the crops in the house without removing the chaff) it is as if we are not yet obligated in the mitzvah. In such a case the Maharsha says that we can serve Hashem in order to get rewarded.
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