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Posted on May 9, 2024 (5784) By | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: #1289 – Performing Mitzvos During the Holocaust. Good Shabbos!

The pasuk in Parshas Kedoshim says, “You shall not curse a deaf person, you shall not place a stumbling block before a blind person, you shall fear your G-d, I am Hashem.” (Vayikra 19:14). The vernacular expression “to curse someone out” is not the Torah prohibition of “Lo sekalel“. The halachic definition of “klala” does not coincide with what someone might do to another driver when he cuts him off in traffic. Without getting into the specific Torah definition of “Lo sekalel,” it is forbidden to do it to a deaf person.

There is a question regarding this mitzvah. It would seem that the last person in the world whom we need to be concerned about “cursing out” (however that is to be defined) is a person who cannot hear. Why does the Torah specifically legislate this prohibition of cursing vis a vis a deaf person?

The Rishonim address this question. Rashi quotes a Sifrei: “I learn from here only that one cannot curse a deaf person. How do I know I cannot do so to any person? For that we have another pasuk: “…In your nation you shall not curse.” (Shemos 22:27) which implies that it is forbidden to curse any Jew. If so, why does the pasuk here in Parshas Kedoshim specify a deaf person? The Torah qualifies the more general pasuk to teach that just as a deaf person is alive, so too, the general prohibition applies only to live people, to the exclusion of those who are dead.” In other words, if someone goes to the grave of a dead person and utters a halachic curse against him, that is not included in the prohibition.

The Ramban also asks this question and quotes Rashi, as he normally does. However, the Ramban takes a different approach: The above-cited pasuk in Mishpatim, which reads in full: “Do not curse a judge, and a prince in your nation you shall not curse” is speaking about cursing the elite of society – judges and princes. The pasuk here in Kedoshim refers to cursing the lower echelons of society. The Torah wants to warn us against cursing the entire range of society, from the highest man on the totem pole to the least fortunate members of our nation. From this end-to-end prohibition, we can infer that it is prohibited to curse anyone in between these two extremes as well.

The Ramban says further that the deaf person was singled out in this area to teach us a kal v’chomer: If it is even forbidden to curse a cheresh who cannot hear what we say about him, and is neither embarrassed nor hurt by what we say, it is certainly forbidden to curse someone who can hear and be offended by what we are saying.

The Sefer haChinuch (Mitzvah 231) has yet a different take on the entire prohibition: Even though we don’t really understand how the utterance of a curse affects the object of that curse, we realize that inevitably, people fear being cursed. The universal assumption is that words do have a power. This apprehension of being cursed applies equally to both Jews and non-Jews. The reason then for this mitzvah is that we are warned not to harm people with our words just like we are warned not to harm them with our deeds.

This is not necessarily about making a person feel bad. The Torah is teaching us the power of speech: It is an aveira (sin) if I give a klala to someone – even if he may not be insulted, embarrassed, or even hear what I said (as in the case of a cheresh) because words have power – however that works. That is why the Torah picked the deaf person. Had the Torah picked a person who hears, our assumption would be that the aveira is making someone feel badly. However, that is not the rationale of this mitzvah, so that is why the Torah picks a cheresh.

The Chinuch continues with an attempt to explain how this all works: Speech is a gift from G-d. It is a “chelek elyoni” – “higher power” because it comes, as it were, from the Almighty. We see this from the pasuk in Bereshis (2:7) “And He blew into his nostrils nishmas chaim (literally, the soul of life).” The famous Targum Onkelos on this pasuk interprets the words nishmas chaim to be ruach memalela – a spirit that speaks. The koach hadibur (power of speech) comes directly from the Ribono shel Olam. Man was granted great strength to speak, even matters outside his own being.

This, says the Chinuch, is why people go to tzadikim, to rebbes, and to holy people to receive brochos. The closer a person is to the Ribono shel Olam, the stronger his power of speech is. The rationale for going to someone for a bracha is that words count. Even the bracha of a simple person (hedyot) is not to be treated lightly. When a simple Jew gives you a bracha, you should respond with a resounding “Amen!”

The power of speech is not to be underestimated. That is the lesson of Lo sekalel cheresh.

A Grammatical Insight Into the Mitzvah of Giving Rebuke

The sefer HaKesav v’Hakabbalah is a Chumash commentary with a forte (like that of the Malbim and Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch) of analysis of nuances of the Hebrew language.

The pasuk in Parshas Kedoshim says: “Do not hate your brother in your heart, you shall reprove your fellow and do not bear a sin because of him.” (Vayikra 19:17) There are times when someone needs to give rebuke because someone who is doing something wrong needs to be chastised. We have spoken in the past about when and how this is to be done, whether it applies in our time, and whether we still know how to give proper halachic chastisement. That is not the subject for tonight.

The Kesav v’HaKabbalah wonders about the grammatical use of the term “es” in the phrase “Hochayach tochiach es amisecha.” Based on the rules of Dikduk (Hebrew grammar) the pasuk should read “Hochayach tochiach l‘amisecha“. The Kesav v’HaKabbalah explains the difference: Had it said “Hochayach tochiach l‘amisecha,” it would mean that the rebuke is being directed to the person. However, “Hochayach tochiach es amisecha” implies that there is an OBJECT over here, not a SUBJECT. The OBJECT is the aveira. The Torah is saying to discuss with this person the ACT which he did.

This means that you should go over to the person and say something like “You know, I don’t know whether that is permissible.” Leave him out of it. Don’t attack him personally. That, says the Kesav v’Hakabblah is how it is possible to reach people. Attacking a person directly (that which is called an ad hominem attack in Latin) is counter-productive. Human beings outright reject personal attacks. A person’s defense mechanism is immediately activated when he is personally criticized. However, when someone discusses the impersonal act that was done, rather than the person who did the act, the recipient of the “chastisement” lets his defenses down. At that point, it is possible to have a reasonable and constructive discussion with him.

In our day and age, we do not generally give tochacha. In fact, the Chazon Ish writes in Hilchos Shechita that “We do not know how to rebuke.” However, there are two exceptions to this rule. There are two categories of people who need to give tochacha: (1) Rabbis and Rebbeim; (2) Parents.

Consequently, the Kesav v”Hakabbalah is giving us a lesson in how we need to chastise our students and our children: Do not attack the person. Do not attack the child. Do not say “How could YOU do that?” Once “YOU” is involved, there will be resistance. It is much more effective to talk about the act – “Is THAT nice?” or “Is THAT right?” or “How would you feel if someone did THAT to you?” Take whatever approach might seem appropriate, but do not start with the person. That is how to achieve success with the mitzvah of tochacha, if and when it applies today.

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Edited by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Kedoshim is provided below:

  • # 009 – Prohibition Against Using a Razor
  • # 052 – Prohibition Against Revenge
  • # 095 – The Mezonos Roll: Does it Exist?
  • # 143 – Inviting the Non-Observant to Your Shabbos Table
  • # 190 – The Prohibition of Negiah
  • # 236 – The Do’s & Don’ts of Giving Tochacha
  • # 280 – “Lo Sa’amod Al Dam Re’echa”
  • # 326 – Mipnei Seiva Takum: Honoring the Elderly
  • # 370 – Deserts — Do They Require a Brocha?
  • # 414 – Giving an Injection to One’s Father
  • # 458 – Giving Tochacha: Private or Public?
  • # 502 – Kissui HaDam
  • # 546 – Treating Mitzvos with Respect
  • # 590 – Sofaik Be’racha
  • # 634 – The Prohibition of Hating Another Jew
  • # 678 – Tochacha: Is Ignorance Bliss?
  • # 722 – Stealing as a Practical Joke
  • # 766 – Making Shiduchim Among Non-Observant
  • # 810 – The Prohibition of Hating Another Jew
  • # 854 – Tatoos: Totally Taboo?
  • # 898 – Paying the Plumber and the Babysitter
  • # 943 – Oy! They Shaved My Payos
  • # 985 – Giving the Benefit of the Doubt – Always?
  • #1029 – Must a Person Eat Bread in Order to Bentch?
  • #1074 – Paying for Someone’s Expensive Medical Treatment
  • #1116 – Eating Before Davening
  • #1158 – “I Don’t Want You Spending Time With So-and-so”-Must a child listen?
  • #1202 – A Bracha On Tums? On Listerine Strips? And Other Brachos Issues
  • #1247 – The Kiruv Workers Dilemma: Inviting Non Shomer Shabbos for a Shabbos Meal
  • #1289 – Performing Mitvos During the Holocaust
  • #1290 – “I Don’t Carry In the Eruv, You Do” – Can You Carry My Tallis For Me?
  • #1422 – Giving Directions to a Jew Who Is Driving on Shabbos – Lifnei Ivair Shailos
  • #1466 – Wearing Gloves While Performing a Mitzvah: Is There a Problem?
  • #1509 – Does the Mitzvah of Tochacha Apply In Our Day?
  • #1552 – Must You Always Say the Truth?

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