Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Kedoshim

There are two basic ways to understand the prohibition of 'lifnei iver lo sitayn michshol' (do not put a stumbling block before a blind person). (19:14)

Rashi on this pasuk, as well as the Rambam and the Chinuch, explain it as primarily a prohibition against being deceptive when giving advice to those who are not in a strong position to know all the relevant facts. A novice seeks expert advice about whether to invest in a particular deal. The expert quickly understands it is a good deal in which to invest. He tells the novice it is not a good deal, so that the novice won't invest and the expert will be able to invest himself instead. Rashi explains that the sense of the pasuk is don't put purposely bad advice (a stumbling block) before a person who is ignorant (blind) as to this matter.

Others (SM"G and R' Saadia Gaon) explain it as primarily a prohibition against enabling someone to do an aveira. One classic example is giving wine to a nazir. [An interesting aside: It would seem that one difference between the two approaches is whether someone who unsuccessfully seeks to do the behavior in question has in fact transgressed the prohibition. If the prohibition is against being deceptive, then the deception has occurred whether or not the victim followed the bad advice; if the prohibition is against leading someone to do an aveira, then giving a cup of wine to a nazir is perhaps not prohibited (at least by virtue of lifnei iver) unless the nazir actually drinks.]

No matter which way the mitzva is explained, the plain meaning of the pasuk - causing a blind person to stumble - is definitely not the subject of the prohibition. There are other prohibitions against this kind of nasty behavior, but lifnei iver is not one of them. Why do we ignore the plain meaning of the words in this pasuk? The Minchas Chinuch (Mitzva 232) asks this question on the Chinuch and the Rambam. Given Rashi's reputation for being the master of pshat (straightforward explanations), we can ask this question of Rashi also. Why doesn't Rashi leave this pasuk alone - why is any explanation needed?

I believe Rashi himself addresses this question at the end of the pasuk. The pasuk finishes by saying 'v'yorayso may'elokecha ani hashem' (you shall fear your L-rd, I am Hashem). Rashi here explains at length that the expression of v'yorayso may'elokecha (fear your L-rd) is utilized when dealing with an issue that cannot be discerned by other humans and only G- d knows what really is happening. Applied to lifnei iver this means that the expert may try to (falsely) explain away his behavior as an innocent mistake ("I gave him the best advice I could"); to combat this the pasuk says 'fear your L-rd', as HKB'H knows exactly what you were thinking.

Because the pasuk concludes with v'yorayso may'elokecha the earlier words of lifnei iver must refer to something which is not obvious to other people. If lifnei iver means, literally, don't trip a blind person, there would be no need to say v'yorayso may'elokecha because tripping a blind person can easily be discerned by others.


Gal Einai, Copyright 2006 by Gedalia Litke and Torah.org


 


ARTICLES ON VAYIGASH AND CHANUKAH:

View Complete List

The Master Plan
Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig - 5763

The Lost Jewel
Shlomo Katz - 5765

Never Discount the Minority
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5756

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Every Little Bit Counts
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5763

Days of Eight
Rabbi Label Lam - 5763

A New Perspective
Shlomo Katz - 5768

ArtScroll

Thanks for What?
Shlomo Katz - 5774

Why The Shift In Attitude?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5774

A Little Light Chases Away a Lot of Darkness
Rabbi Label Lam - 5760

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

The Light of Torah
Rabbi Yosef Kalatzky - 5763

Miracles of Modesty
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5762

Yaakov's Descent to Egypt
Shlomo Katz - 5764

> Yehuda, Yosef and Chanukah
Shlomo Katz - 5763

The Cause of our Exile
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758

Doorway to Jewish Destiny
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5758

Liar Liar
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5770



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information