Thursday, May 1, 2008

Table Talk - Kedoshim 5768

I saw an interesting question on a wonderful brand-new website publicizing the well-known parshat hashavua pages (gilyonot) of Nechama Leibowitz. (As an aside, for many, many years, Nechama Leibowitz published a weekly sheet on the parshah, which she would distribute to her students and whoever else wanted one, and then, if you sent it back to her, she would grade them. Based upon these weekly sheets she produced her well-known series, “Studies in the Weekly Parshah.” But I digress.

Many of us are familiar with the well-known prohibition, ולפני עור לא תתן מכשול – “and do not put a stumbling block before the blind man” (Vayikra 19:14).

Here are translations of two different explanations of this prohibition:

Rashi (on the passuk): “Before the man blind about a matter, do not give him inappropriate advice. Do not tell him, “Sell your field and buy a donkey”, and you circumvent him and take it from him. (By the way, it’s not clear to me whether Rashi means that you take the field or the donkey, but I think it means that you give him the advice because you want the field for yourself.)

Rambam (Book of Commandments, Negative commandment 299): “Anyone who stumbles a man blind in a matter and gives him inappropriate advice, or he strengthens the hand of the sinner about which he is blind and does not see the truth due to the desires of his heart, this person violates a negative commandment.

Nechama asked the following great question: According to these two interpretations, who is the blind man? What type of blindness does the Torah refer to? What behavior does this verse prohibit?

Discuss this question around the Shabbos table. For further discussion, can you come up with a different understanding of the passuk or find still another interpretation? As a bonus question, what sin do we confess during viduy on Yom Kippur that relates to this issue?