Every so often, I like to give over a vort that besides for giving a deeper insight into the pasuk, it also shows how the commentaries learned the pasuk in order to bring out those insights. Understanding how they saw the pesukim allows us to gain a deeper understanding of how to read and dissect pesukim so we can create our own great insights! This week is one of these vorts.
This week’s Parshah discusses a portion of how the Torah court system works. One topic discussed is the testimony of false witnesses and their punishment. The last pasuk dealing with this topic says, “וְהַנִּשְׁאָרִים יִשְׁמְעוּ וְיִרָאוּ וְלֹא יֹסִפוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת עוֹד כַּדָּבָר הָרָע הַזֶּה בְּקִרְבֶּךָ” “And those who remain shall hearken and fear; and they shall not continue again to do such an evil thing in your midst” (Devarim 19:20). Rashi comments on the words “יִשְׁמְעוּ וְיִרָאוּ” “hearken and fear”, that from these words we learn that before you kill the witnesses (if they are guilty of death), you must announce to the general public that they are being killed as a result of their testifying falsely in Beis Din.
The Sifsei Chachamim explains Rashi’s thought process for this explanation. Last week in Parshas Re’eh, we discussed the fate of a Meisit, someone who convinces other people to serve Avoda Zara, and who is then killed. When the Torah discusses his punishment, the pasuk says, “וְכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל יִשְׁמְעוּ וְיִרָאוּן” “All Israel shall hear and fear…” (13:12). How come by the meisit the pasuk says that all of Israel should hear while here by the false witnesses, only those “that remain” should hear and fear? The answer lies in who we are addressing. Not everyone can testify in Beis Din. There are many people, such as gamblers, thieves, and others, who are halachically not allowed to be witnesses for any case. To become a meisit however, the potential rests with everybody. Therefore, when the pasuk discusses the fate of a meisit, it says that the entire nation should hear since it is applicable to the entire nation. But by the false witnesses, there are many people who never have to fear from this punishment as they will never be allowed to testify in the first place! When our pasuk says to address those that remain, it is referring only to the ones who remain kosher to testify. Therefore, Rashi has to explain to us two things; first, why the wording in our pasuk is different than in Parshas Re’eh, and secondly, that we still need to announce why these people are being killed even though it is not applicable to the whole nation.
This will also answer another difference in Rashi. Earlier in the parshah, when discussing the general laws of Beis Din, Rashi explains the same words of “וְכָל הָעָם יִשְׁמְעוּ וְיִרָאוּ”, that we wait until the next Holiday when the entire Nation will be together in Yerushalayim to kill those deserving of death. The reason why Rashi did not explain our pasuk like that as well is because that while we will still wait until the Holiday to kill the false witnesses, the warning does not apply to the entire nation and therefore the focus of having everyone together does not apply as well like it does at the beginning of the Parsha.
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