Daf Yomi

For the week ending 15 March 2003 / 11 Adar II 5763

Shavuot 42-48

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Taking Words to Heart

A most unusual tribute was paid by the sage Rami bar Chama to the passion for truth in Torah analysis of Rabbi Sheishet. He compared his intense longing for accuracy to what is written about David: "And David took these words to heart" (Shmuel I 21:13).

This tribute was inspired by an encounter which Rabbi Sheishet had with a colleague, the Sage Rabba bar Shmuel, in which he asked him what he had learned about the subject of when an employee who claims that he did not receive his wages has the privilege of taking an oath and collecting them. Upon hearing his reply he immediately made an analysis of this information to challenge a ruling of the great Sages Rav and Shmuel on this subject.

Rashi thus explains the tribute: "He took it to heart to determine whether the ruling of Rav and Shmuel was correct or not."

A closer look at the Scriptural account of Davids taking to heart perhaps offers us a deeper insight into another dimension of this unusual tribute.

David fled for his life before King Saul who saw him as a rival to his throne and sought to slay him. This jealousy began when Saul heard the women of his nation chanting "Saul slayed thousands and David tens of thousands" in tribute to the latters victory over the Philistine giant Goliath (ibid. 18:7-9). He sought refuge in the nearest foreign state, in the court of Achish, king of the Philistine state of Gat. But when he overheard the kings attendants say to him that this refugee was none other than David, about whom they had chanted that "Saul slayed in the thousands and David in the tens of thousands" he took these words to heart and feared for his life. Only by feigning insanity did he succeed in escaping certain death (ibid. 18:14-16).

It appears from this account that there was no certainty about Davids identity. Working in favor of Davids attempt to disguise his identity was the assumption that no one so highly placed in the Israelite kingdom would seek refuge in the court of Israels arch enemies, the Philistines. But when he heard those attendants recall the tribute paid to him that was the catalyst for Sauls murderous jealousy he took to heart the plausible explanation that this would provide for his desperate flight.

It was this sort of analytical dissection of a statement that Rabbi Sheishet demonstrated, for which he also received this tribute.

Shavuot 45b

Sharing the Guilt

The Torah gave the defendant in many monetary lawsuits an opportunity to prove his innocence by taking an oath. This oath is mentioned in the chapter of the Torah dealing with a shomer sachar (someone paid for his safekeeping service) who is defending himself as not being responsible for the death or disappearance of the animal placed in his trust.

"There shall be an oath to G-d between them" (Shmot 22:10) is how the Torah describes the oath taken by the defendant. The expression "between them" led Rabbi Shimon ben Tarfon to conclude that both claimant and defendant share in the guilt of the false swearing.

Tosefot points out that it is evident from an earlier gemara (39a) that if one makes a false claim he bears the guilt for causing the defendant to take an unnecessary oath in the name of G-d to defend himself. The source for this is a passage in Zecharia (5:4) which speaks of a thief who is identified by our Sages as one who makes a dishonest claim and forces an oath to be taken. The guilt mentioned in our gemara, Tosefot therefore concludes, is even that of one who makes an honest claim and it is the defendant who is the liar.

But why should one who makes an honest claim be held responsible for the false swearing of the defendant? Why do the members of the court that administers the oath declare "Remove yourselves from the tents of these wicked people" in paraphrase of the warning given by Moshe to the people in regard to the rebellion led by Korach (Bamidbar 16:26), a declaration indicting the claimant along with the defendant?

The answer is provided by Rashi (39b) who writes that the honest claimant shares in the guilt of the false oath because he should have been more careful in regard to whom he entrusted with his money, and it was this lack of caution which indirectly led to desecration of the Holy Name through a false oath.

Shavuot 47b

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