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Monday, 22 June 2015

Frum murderers

Daf Yomi Nedarim 28

The Yid Hakadosh, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak of Peshischa, once called upon his student Reb Simcha Bunim and instructed him to take some of the chasidim on a journey.  No destination was specified but off they went, no questions asked.  On the way, they found lodging at a certain inn and notwithstanding the frum appearance of the innkeepers, they were concerned about kashrus issues, and ordered a dairy meal.
“I’m sorry,” said the innkeeper, “tonight’s menu was fleishig.  I have no dairy to serve you.”  They proceeded to pound him with all manner of question regarding the shechita, salting, and source of the food until they finally acquiesced to the meal.  

Over the course of the meal, their conversation turned to some of the local gossip. 
Overhearing their conversation, the innkeeper’s wife passed by and muttered to herself, “Interesting how some people are so careful about what goes into their mouths but not nearly as careful about what comes out of their mouths.”
When Reb Simcha Bunim heard these words, he jumped up and exclaimed, “What pearls of wisdom!  That is why the Rebbe sent us on this mission!”

One may swear to murderers, plunderers or tax-collectors that his produce is terumah (priestly tithes) or royal estate even if it is not true.  The House of Shamai says that one may utilize any vow except a biblical oath.  The House of Hillel says that one may even employ a biblical oath. 
Rashi explains:  If someone comes to kill you over material goods, you are permitted to swear that the objects they desire are terumah even if they are not, so that the plunderers will not take the goods because they cannot eat the tithes for fear of spiritual retribution. 

Why would a murderer care whether or not the food was kosher to eat?  If he is prepared to murder, plunder and steal, it stands to reason that he is not particularly frum!  How would it help to swear to him that the food is not kosher?!

The answer is that nobody thinks of themselves as a murderer.  When a person commits even the most heinous of crimes, somehow he justifies the act in his own mind.  To his own conscience, he is a good Jew – far be it from him to eat the priestly tithes!  For whatever reason, he needs to commit these acts of violence.  But he somehow compartmentalizes away the acts of murder and theft and convinces himself that he is still committed to his Judaism.

The case of murder is an extreme example of this justification, rationalization and compartmentalization.  But everyone is guilty of it on some level.   Are you careful about the minutiae of the kosher laws but careless with regards to shemiras halashon (guarding your tongue) or shemiras einayim (guarding your eyes)?  Do you have kavana (focus) for each word of davening, but then easily get angry at people?   Are you committed to giving ten percent or more to tzedakah, but less precise when it comes to your taxes and business dealings? 

As a Divine ambassador, you need to be extra careful when it comes to mitzvos bein adam lachavero – the interpersonal commandments.  Don’t get trapped by the misbelief that G-d cares more about the ritualistic mitzvos.  May you merit acting in an exemplary fashion when it comes to all of Hashem’s commandments and never rationalize, justify, or compartmentalize!