Tuesday, May 24, 2005

DovBear on the Parsha

(Yes, yes: Last week's Parsha.)

The son of the Israelite woman pronounced the Name in blasphemy, and he was brought to Moses—now his mother’s name was Shelomith daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan—and he was placed in custody, until the decision of the Lord should be made clear to them. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands upon his head, and let the whole community stone him. (Leviticus 24:11-15)

(their hands) They say to him: "Your blood is on your head, and we are not punished for your death, for you caused [it] to yourself

Huh? Why are the witnesses putting their hands on the blasphemer's head? That's not usually done in a capital case. Moreover, come to think of it, this shouldn't even be a capital case. By law, Jews only execute people who have been warned. This person hadn't been warned, so how can he be executed?

(Pay attention Akiva. I'm about to quote a Hasid. The Lubovitcher Rebbe, no less) The blasphemer wasn't executed. The stoning was symbolic - only one token stone was throne - with no intent to kill. However, hurling a rock at another human being is dangeorous business so before begining, the witnesses reminded the blasphemer that if he happened to die, by accident, it was his own damn fault.

The verse tells us God commanded a stoning, but the words "and he died" (or a variation thereof) do not appear. Every other time, God calls for rocks to be thrown, the verse concludes with a mos yoomas or a vayamutoo, or something like it. Not here.