Monday, August 6, 2018

The Prohibition Against Physical Violence and Pearls Back in Style? Their Preciousness Never Left!

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Grace After Meals

  The Birkas Hamazon - Grace After Meals - is a song of gratitude toward the Almighty.

Many people think that since we have eaten, we must make a blessing.

But actually the opposite is true: The whole purpose of eating is so we should review the concepts found in Birkas Hamazon!

Every time you eat, it's a new opportunity to recognize the kindness the Almighty bestows upon you.

Today, after eating a meal, reflect on how wonderful it is that you have food. Imagine the relief and pleasure you would experience if you were stuck someplace for two days without food... and then you had this meal!

Love Yehuda Lave

28 Tammuz


In 1922, the League of Nations confirmed the British Mandate of Palestine, territory taken from the Ottoman Empire following World War I. The Mandate charged Britain with securing the establishment of the Jewish national home, and safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine. Just a few months later, Britain decided to lop off 77% of the land and use it to establish the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan (today called Jordan). In ensuing years, Jewish immigration to Palestine created much Arab resentment, and the British responded by placing strict limitations on Jewish immigration. This policy had lethal consequences for Jews fleeing Hitler's ovens. When the British continued to placate the Arabs, for example by restricting Jewish land purchases, a revolt was organized by Zionist groups. By 1948 this pressure had forced the British out of Palestine, clearing the way for an independent State of Israel.

Pearls Back in Style? Their Preciousness Never Left!

Have you noticed that pearls have made a major comeback in the fashion world? I see more and more of them everywhere—on the fashion runway, on red carpets all over the world, in political circles and high society—and I can't help but think that unbeknown to the fashion world, in a certain sense Jewish women have been "leading the pearl trend" for more than 2,000 years.

King Solomon says in the first verse of Eishet Chayil: "Who can find a woman of valor? She is more precious than pearls."Why not diamonds? Gold? Precious gems? I like pearls; I've liked them long before their new shelf life. But I wonder, why pearls? Why not diamonds? Gold? Precious gems? Wouldn't any of these have been a more fitting choice for Jewish women's praise?

I think that King Solomon's words allude to something beyond the external value and/or beauty of a given "gem." There is something intrinsic to a pearl itself that explains the analogy to Jewish women.

The natural process that forms pearls is something many of us can relate to. Pearls emerge when an irritant—sand, a parasite, a tiny piece of sediment, something—enters an oyster. As a defense mechanism, the oyster begins to secrete a substance around the irritant. It creates layers upon layers of nacre around it. Over time, the fully covered irritant becomes what we know as a pearl.

We all have "irritants" in our lives—things that bother us, things that challenge us, things that make us ache. Most often, we have no control over those things, nor when, where and how they come to "attack" us. What we can control is how we react to them. It seems to me that the Torah is trying to remind us that we Jewish women have a "defense mechanism" to adversity that also gives birth to pearls. We have the ability to turn those inevitable irritants of life into something precious and beautiful.

Scientists deem the formation of pearls one of nature's great mysteries. They are still unable to recreate this phenomenon outside of the oyster. Even cultured pearls are made when humans implant an irritant into the oyster; there is no other way to create a pearl. Similarly, while we understand that G‑d created a natural system in which greatness emerges out of the depth of our struggles, the mystery remains as to why He wills it so.

As I was writing this, a friend of mine, Devorah, stopped by my table at the coffee shop where I was sitting. We had just seen each other 12 hours earlier, at a meeting where nearly 20 Jewish women gathered to plan how to help a fellow Jewish woman, a mother of six, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

After a warm hello, we optimistically conversed about the fervent belief that our friend's situation will turn around for the better. Devorah then said to me: "Despite what I went through, Yael, I truly believe that this will be OK. She will go back healthy to her six kids."

MyMy friend is no stranger to challenge friend is no stranger to challenge, having lost her son, only 6 years old, to cancer two years ago. I smiled in agreement. Then she told me: "In life, even in the pain, we have to find purpose. Today, knowing that I can help others with similar situations as the one I went through is what propels me forward."

That exchange and the words of King Solomon still fresh in my mind, I couldn't help but wonder if this trend in popular culture foreshadows a joyous time in which we will see all of the beautiful pearls that emerge from our personal struggles artfully stranded together as a masterpiece—a beautiful answer to the "why" of it all.

By Yael Trusch Yael Trusch is the creator of the bilingual Jewish lifestyle blog and weekly podcast for women, Jewish Latin Princess. She promotes 'a joyful, richer Jewish life,' inspiring women around the globe with her positivity and colorful persona. She also authors a monthly column, Defining Jewish Women, for The Jewish Herald-Voice. More from Yael Trusch  |

Any Which Way You Can - Barfight

Philo Beddoe (Clint Eastwood) and Jack Wilson (William Smith) meet at a bar and get into a fight - not with each other though.

The Prohibition Against Physical Violence By Yisroel Dovid Klein

In almost all modern societies there are laws prohibiting acts of physical violence. It comes as no surprise that the Torah also considers it a grave sin.

And yet, surely we don't need G‑d to tell us that physical violence is not allowed, as all half-decent people could come to thisSurely we don't need G‑d to tell us that physical violence is not allowed conclusion on their own. And that's not the only obvious commandment. Did G‑d really need to tell us not to murder?

One of the reasons we need these Divine commands is because, although the general prohibition may be dictated by logic, the details are often not,1 For example, it might be obvious that we should not take another person's life, but when does life start? When does it end? Are there any exceptions?

Additionally, a person is not always capable of remaining objective. Hence these mitzvahs need the force of a Divine commandment to stop a person from bending them because of subjectivity and bias.2

Now let us explore what the Torah actually says about physical violence.

The Prohibition

One who wounds or even hits another person actually transgresses one of the 365 prohibitions of the Torah. Although there's no verse in the Torah that explicitly forbids hitting, the Talmud derives the prohibition from the verses that discuss the punishment of lashes.3

The verses state that in some instances people who transgress Torah prohibitions receive 40 lashes (which the rabbis explain to mean 39), and that the person giving the lashes "shall not exceed, lest he give him a much more severe flogging than these [40 lashes]."4 In practice, the Jewish courts would assess if the offender was strong enough to withstand the 39 lashes, and if not, he was given only as many lashes as he could bear.5 If the courts would strike the offender even one extra time, they would have transgressed the prohibition of "he shall not exceed."

Our sages reason: If it is forbidden to give even one extra extra lash to a wicked person, all the more so must it be forbidden to hit an innocent person, who is deserving of no lashes whatsoever.6

The Punishment

Generally speaking, when somebody damages another person's property he is liable to pay damages. Similarly when one inflicts damage on another person, he is obligated to pay. In addition to actual damages, the Torah obligates the person to pay for pain, doctors' fees, lost revenue and even embarrassment.

(How these payments are assessed is a subject of an entire chapter in Talmud7 and is beyond the scope of our discussion.)

Now, there is a rule that one who is liable to pay for a transgression is not subjected to corporal punishment as well. However, in a case where no damage was caused, or where the damage was insignificant (less than a small coin's worth, shaveh prutah), and as a result there was no monetary payment imposed on the offender, then the punishment of lashes was administered.8

In post-Talmudic times, the rabbis instituted a law that, in certain situations, one who commits an act of violence against another person is to be excommunicated and cannot be counted towards a minyan.9

But He Hit Me First

Even in situations where somebody else started the fight, it is nonetheless forbidden to hit back.10 However, if there is no other way of restraining an attacker, it would be permitted to use force, provided that you hit the person no more than is absolutely necessary.11

If You Have Permission

There is a dispute as to whether or not one is permitted to hit someone who has given permission to be hit. The Rivash (Rabbi Yitzchak Ben Sheshet, 1326–1408) rules that it is forbidden,12 and this seems to be the opinion of most subsequent authorities on Jewish law. One reason for this is that one does not have autonomy over one's body, which is the property of G‑d, and therefore one has no right to allow someone else to hit him.


One is permitted to evict a person from one's home if that person has no right to be there.13 If he refuses to leave, some authorities permit one to use physical force when evicting him.14 However, the use of force is only permitted as a last resort.

Similarly, when absolutely necessary, it is permitted to use physical force in order to retrieve a stolen object, or for that matter to stop a person from stealing from you.15

Technically, one is permitted to hit one's children or students in an effort to discipline them.16 However, contemporary halachic authorities say that this does not apply in this day and age.17

Types of Hitting

It must be noted that not all types of hitting are included in the prohibition. Maimonides writes that it is only hitting with malice that is forbidden. (According to another version of Maimonides, only hitting of a "degrading nature" is forbidden.)18

Based on this, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein allows cosmetic surgery, since any wounds inflicted in the process of the surgery are not of a degrading nature, and are not inflicted maliciously.19 However, others disagree with this,20 so be sure to consult a rabbi before any elective surgery. (Read more at Is Elective Surgery Permissible?)

In a similar vein, the second Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Isser Unterman, permitted boxing and other forms of combat sports, arguing that they do not fall under the category of hitting with malice.21

Lifting a Hand

When Moses, who was brought up in Pharaoh's home, left the palace to see how his fellow Jews were doing, he encountered two Jews fighting. The verse states that "Moses turned to the wicked one and asked him, 'Why are you going to strike your friend?'"22 A close reading reveals that the person had not yet hit his fellow and, nonetheless, the Torah refers to him as wicked. The Talmud concludes that even one who merely lifts up his hand in violence is deemed wicked.23

Some authorities suggest that a would-be striker has not actually committed any sin in the legal sense; the Talmud just wants to emphasize its hard-line approach to interpersonal violence.24

However, most authorities opine that it is a sin to lift a hand in violence.25 There is discussion as to whether this sin is biblical or rabbinical in nature.26 The fact that it is derived from the verse in Exodus would seem to imply that it is forbidden on a biblical level, and this is in fact the opinion of many authorities.27 However, it seems that in Maimonides' opinion it is forbidden only on a rabbinical level, since this verse does not explicitly teach this law.28

Some authorities rule that one who lifts his hand in violence is not invalidated as a witness.29 The reason for this would be that, although there is a rule that a wicked person is invalidated as a witness, one is considered wicked only if the sin committed is punishable by lashes,30 and the general consensus is that lifting a hand does not warrant lashes.

However, in the opinion of most authorities, and this is in fact the final halachah,31 one who lifts a hand in violence is invalidated from being a witness.Why?

1) Rabbi Yosef Karo posits that, although the rule is that only one who commits a Torah transgression that is punishable by lashes is invalidated from serving as a witness, from the perspective of rabbinic law, an offender can be invalidated even where there are no lashes if the prohibition transgressed is biblical.32

2) Lifting up one's hand against another person is an exception, since the Torah explicitly called such a person a wicked person and, as mentioned above, wicked people are invalidated from serving as witnesses.33

A number of explanations have been given as to why lifting a hand is forbidden:

1) Lifting up one's hand is the beginning of the forbidden act of hitting.34

2) The problem lies in the fact that the person has shown intent to commit the sin of hitting another person.35

3) The prohibition serves as a safeguard against the sin of hitting another person. The Torah (or the rabbis) forbade lifting one's hand against another person so as to prevent people from transgressing the prohibition of hitting another person.36

4) The mere act of lifting one's hand is an act of violence and shows a negative character trait in the aggressor.37

5) Alternatively, the mere act of lifting one's hand instills fear in the other person. As a result the aggressor transgresses the prohibition of onaat devarim (verbal oppression), causing emotional pain to another person.38

Practical Ramifications

The Rebbe posits that the distinct reasons given above as to why lifting a hand is forbidden lead to different understandings of the Talmudic statement regarding the offender's wickedness and eligibility to serve as a witness.39

If one adopts the explanation that raising one's hand in violence is problematic because it is the beginning of the act of hitting or because it shows intent to hit one's fellow (explanations #1 and #2 ), then it would be difficult to understand how raising one's hand could have any legal ramifications. There is a general rule that the Torah does not punish for intent alone, and seeing that no harm has been inflicted on the other person, why would such a person be considered wicked in any legal sense of the world? It therefore makes sense to say that the Talmud was not making any legal statement, but rather is to be understood homiletically. It follows that the act of lifting one's hand up in violence does not actually invalidate the offender from serving as a witness.

If however, one adopts the explanation that the act of lifting one's hand up in violence is in itself a negative act (reasons #4 and #5), then there is no reason not to take the Talmud literally to mean that it is a forbidden act, and one can readily understand why it disqualifies one who commits this act from serving as a witness.

The Purpose of Hands

The Rebbe offers a fascinating insight into why lifting one's hand against another person is considered such a terrible act.

In a talk on Shabbat Parshat Noach 5748, the Rebbe asked why the Talmud specifically states that one who lifts his hand is consideredHands were created to do acts of kindness wicked. Surely one who lifts up any other body part against another person should be considered wicked as well?

The Rebbe answered that there is an important lesson to be learned from the phrasing of this Talmudic dictum. A person's hand was created to do acts of tzedakah (charity) and kindness. When a person uses his hand for opposite aims, he sins, not only against his fellow man, but also against his Creator, who created his hand for a specific purpose.

This passage of Talmud teaches us how important it is to use all the gifts G‑d has bestowed on us—wealth, health and talents—for the purpose for which they were created, namely, for the service of G‑d.

Footnotes 1. See for example, Maimonides, Moreh Nevuchim 3:26. 2. See for example, Likutei Sichot, vol. 3 p.389. 3. Ketubot 33a. 4. Deuteronomy 25:3. 5. Maimonides, Laws of the Courts and the Penalties Under Their Jurisdiction 17:1. 6. Maimonides laws of Injuries and Damages 5:1. 7. Bava Kama, ch. 8. 8. Talmud Ketubot 32b. Maimonides Ibid 5:3, 9. Rabbi Moshe Isserles in his glosses to Code of Jewish Law, Choshen Mishpat 420:1. 10. Code of Jewish law, Choshen Mishpat 421:13. 11. Ibid. 12. In Responsum 484. 13. Talmud, Bava Kama 48a. 14. Tur Choshen Mishpat 42. 15. Shulchan Aruch Harav, Nizkei Guf Vanefesh 3. 16.Talmud Makos 8b. 17. For example, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. 18. Laws of Injuries and Damages 5:1. 19. Igrot Moshe Choshen Mishpat 2:66. 20. Such as Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg in Tzitz Eliezer 11:41. 21. In Responsa Shevet Miyehuda, vol. 1, Mahadura 2, p.439. Rabbi Unterman raises the point that this ruling of Maimonides seems to be at odds with the above cited opinion of Rivash, who ruled that one is not allowed to hit even if permission is granted. Surely there is no malice in hitting someone who agrees to be beaten. Rabbi Unterman argues that upon analysis of the case that Rivash was discussing it is possible that he could agree with Maimonides.

Rivash was discussing a case where someone borrows money with the understanding that if he doesn't pay up, the lender will be allowed to beat him. Rivash ruled that despite the fact that permission was given, the hitting is still forbidden. Rabbi Unterman argues that despite the fact that permission was given it still constitutes hitting with malice, since the offender is upset that he didn't receive his money. This would not, however, preclude the permissibility of sport fighting. 22. Exodus 2:13. 23. Sanhedrin 58b. 24. See Likutei Sichot, vol.31, p.3 fn 11 that this seems to be the implication of the Tur Choshen Mishhpat, beginning of 420. See however Yam Shel Sholmo, Bava Kama 8:63 cited in Likutei Sichot ibid fn 11. 25. See for example Maimonides, Laws of Damages and Injury, 5:2. 26. Likutei Sichos vol.31 p 2 and footnotes thereon. 27. See for example Beit Yosef Choshen Mishpat 34, who understands the Mordechai to be saying so. 28. Rather it is an asmachta, i.e., learned through a hint. 29. See Responsa Maharash MiLubin 89. 30. And certainly if the sin is punishable by the death penalty or karet. 31. Rabbi Moshe Isserles in his glosses to Code of Jewish Law, Choshen Mishpat, 34:4. 32. Beit Yosef Choshen Mishpat 34. 33. See Levush 34:4. 34. Likutei Sichot, vol.31, p.3. 35. Ruling of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky printed in the back of L'reakha Kamokha, vol.4, p.351. 36. Vedorashta Vechokarta, pp.120-122. 37. Likutei Sichot, ibid. 38. 'L'reakha Kamokha, vol.4, p.56. 39. Likutei Sichot, ibid. By Yisroel Dovid Klein

just wanted a couple of peanuts

classic Clint Eastwood

Every clever person will act with good sense, whereas a fool will declare his folly (Proverbs 13:16).


The Malbim interprets this verse to mean that the clever person will find ways to resolve doubts, but the fool will create new ones.

The doubts to which the Malbim is referring are those that relate to Torah and mitzvos. A person who feels that observance of the mitzvos is an imposition may look for ways to justify non-compliance, and may do so by casting doubts on their validity. He may find what he feels to be inconsistencies, or argue that science challenges Torah principles. However, he succeeds in deceiving no one other than himself. Everyone else knows that he is not motivated by a search for truth, but merely by a desire to avoid any inconveniences.

A clever person, who may be subject to the same arguments, will realize that all of the objections of which he can think were known to greater minds than his. Our history is replete with intellectual giants and philosophical geniuses, whose absolute dedication to Torah and mitzvos was not affected in the least by all the challenges which may appear so cogent. One can safely rely on their conclusion that after considering all arguments, they concluded that the teachings of Torah were correct.

The person who uses arguments to evade Torah observance is placing his mind above that of the intellectual giants of our heritage. Only a fool would do that.

Today I shall ...
... rest assured that the teachings of the Torah are the correct way of life.

One who withholds grain will be cursed by the nation (Proverbs 11:26).

This verse refers to people who have knowledge and refuse to share it with others. Our Sages strongly criticize these people. The Talmud states that prophets who did not convey their prophecies to the people committed a grave sin. The Sages extend this principle to one who has gained insights into the Torah and does not make them available to others.

This principle applies to skills and talents. In the Sanctuary, those Kohanim (priests) who possessed certain talents were soundly condemned if they guarded them as family secrets.

Exclusive economic rights such as patents and copyrights pose no problem; inventors and authors should enjoy the profits of their labor. However, when the question is not one of income, but merely one of pride in being the sole person to possess information that others could use and enjoy, the Talmud spares no words in its condemnation.

We pray to God to grant us wisdom, and if we possess a particular skill, we should recognize it as a Divine gift. We should be grateful for having been chosen as the recipient of this gift, and so we should never be selfish and claim this gift as our exclusive property. Rather, we should make our talents and knowledge available to everyone.

To the degree that people can teach, they are obligated to do so, regardless of their status in life. If others fail to take advantage of what a teacher has to offer, that is their misfortune.

Today I shall ...

refrain from keeping to myself any knowledge or information that can be helpful to others.

See you tomorrow

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

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