Wednesday, June 20, 2018

May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.


This week we learned Sanhedrin 49. These are some highlights.

Sanhedrin 49: Is the victim of pursuit obligated to give money to avoid killing the pursuer?

Our Gemara teaches about Yoav, King David’s general. David ordered his son Shlomo to put Yoav to death. When Shlomo assumed the throne he sent Benayahu to arrest Yoav. Yoav was brought to him. Shlomo challenged Yoav for having killed Avner. “Why did you kill Avner?”

Yoav sought to defend himself. He argued that he killed Avner because he was the goel hadam. “Avner killed my brother Amasa. I was to avenge his loss. I had to kill Avner.” Shlomo challenged Yoav. “But Amasa was pursuing Avner. It is not murder to kill the pursuer. Avner was right in killing Amasa who pursued him. You had no right to kill Avner.” Yoav responded, “We must stop pursuit. A man chasing his friend to kill him may be killed. If the pursuit can be stopped with injury, the pursuer should be maimed. There is no right to kill a pursuer when his pursuit can be stopped through other means. Avner was an expert swordsman. He was able to slide his blade precisely at the fifth rib. He could have maimed Amasa. His killing Amasa was therefore not justified. I, as Amasa’s relative, was right to kill him.” Shlomo accepted Yoav’s argument about Avner. A principle emerges. Pursuit should be stopped by injuring the pursuer before it is stopped by killing the pursuer. There is no right to kill the pursuer if maiming him could have stopped the aggression and danger.

Reuven bursts into Shimon’s home brandishing a gun. “Give me $1,000 cash and your wife’s jewelry,” he demands. “If you do not pay me I will fire my weapon,” he adds. Is Shimon allowed to kill Reuven with his own gun? Perhaps, since paying the extortionist would stop the threat, Shimon is obligated to pay and not to kill. Just as if Shimon could maim he is obligated to wound the aggressor and may not kill the pursuer, perhaps, in this case, since there is a way to stop the aggression that does not entail killing, Shimon has no right to kill Reuven.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav Shmuel Rozovsky both argue that Shimon is allowed to kill Reuven and eliminate the threat. Our Gemara is teaching that when the pursuer is attacked, if he can be attacked in a non-lethal manner and the objective of saving the victim will be achieved, we are obligated to use the non-lethal means of eliminating the threat. This does not obligate the victim to give money or to give in to extortionist threats. A victim does not need to give away money just because an aggressor is demanding it violently. In our case, Reuven is a pursuer. Shimon is entitled to eliminate the threat. If he can do it by maiming Shimon he should wound him. If he is not a good marksman and can only eliminate the threat by killing the aggressor, he is entitled to kill. Halacha does not demand of a victim to give money to save the life of the pursuer (Me’orot Daf Hayomi).

If I know I am innocent, yet I am wrongfully convicted, should I pay the judgment?

The Mishnah teaches that four death penalties have been given to the courts. The language of the Mishnah seems to imply that the sentences are in the hands of the courts. What is the law when the court followed the correct procedures but the ruling is wrong? Consider the following: a man was accused by two witnesses of killing his friend. The court examined the case and convicted him. He knows he is innocent. He is sure the witnesses testified falsely about him. If he has the ability to flee, should he run away? Should he try to save his life when the court has convicted him? Perhaps there is a mitzvah of arba mitot beit din. The court followed correct procedure. Is he obligated by Torah law to fulfill rulings of the court when Torah procedure was accurately followed?

Shu”t Minchat Elazar (Chelek Aleph Siman 18) raises this query. He also wonders about a monetary case. Imagine the following: Due to testimony of two witnesses I was convicted and ordered to pay $100. I know that the witnesses were lying. I know I am innocent. I can avoid the court by leaving town. Am I allowed to run away and avoid paying what I know I do not truly owe?

Pitchei Teshuva (Yoreh Dei’ah Siman 2:5) discusses a ritual slaughterer who was removed from his position because of testimony that he had fed people treif food. The shochet knows that he was falsely accused. Can he still slaughter for himself and his family? Pitchei Teshuva believes that the slaughterer is allowed to continue to slaughter for himself. He knows he was falsely convicted and wrongly removed.

Rav Elyashiv felt that in the scenarios of the Minchat Elazar the man should not go to beit din and get the punishment. The obligation to punish the sinner is based on the mandate “And you shall eradicate the evil from your midst.” This man is not evil. He knows he did not kill. He should not go and allow an unjust act of killing the innocent to take place. The same should hold true in the case of financial obligation. Rav Zilberstein argues that since I know I am innocent and do not owe the money, I should run away and avoid paying. If I were to pay the money, I would be furthering the sin of the false witnesses. I would cause their words to lead to the sin of theft. I am helping them by avoiding the payment. (Chashukei Chemed)

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.