1) THE PUBLIC PROCLAMATIONS OF EXECUTIONS
QUESTION: The Gemara quotes a Beraisa which says that the Torah requires that Beis Din publicly proclaim the executions of four sinners: a Mesis, a Ben Sorer u'Moreh, a Zaken Mamrei, and Edim Zomemim. The Gemara points out that in the case of the first three sinners the Torah states either that "all of the nation shall hear and fear" (Devarim 17:13), or that "all of Yisrael shall hear and fear" (Devarim 13:12, 21:21), but in the case of Edim Zomemim the Torah says, "And those who remain shall hear and fear" (Devarim 19:20). The Gemara explains the reason for this difference. Not all members of the Jewish people are qualified to be witnesses, and thus in the case of Edim Zomemim the public proclamation -- which is made in order to warn people not to commit the same transgression -- is not applicable to people who cannot serve as witnesses. RASHI explains that some people cannot be witnesses because they sin with thievery, usury, or other sins which disqualify them from giving testimony.
The Gemara is difficult to understand. Just as there are people who cannot serve as witnesses and for whom the public proclamation is not relevant, there are people who cannot serve as judges on a Beis Din and thus cannot transgress the sin of being a Zaken Mamrei. Moreover, most of the Jewish people cannot be executed as a Ben Sorer u'Moreh, since most of the Jewish people are not males between the ages of thirteen and thirteen and three months. What does the Gemara mean?
ANSWER: The RAN answers by explaining the purpose of these proclamations. The execution of a Ben Sorer u'Moreh is announced not in order to make a potential Ben Sorer u'Moreh turn away from his evil path. Rather, his execution is announced so that other parents see the fate of a child who was not taught proper discipline from his parents. This will encourage parents to strengthen the Chinuch of their children and to put more effort into guiding their children to live in accordance with the Torah. Accordingly, it does not matter that most people cannot qualify as a Ben Sorer u'Moreh. Most people can be parents, and thus the public announcement of the execution of the Ben Sorer u'Moreh is certainly appropriate.
(Perhaps there is an allusion in the Torah to the failure of the parents to give appropriate guidance to their child who becomes a Ben Sorer u'Moreh. The Gemara later (107a) points out that the Parshah of Eshes Yefas To'ar is followed immediately by the Parshah of a man who hates his wife, which is followed by the Parshah of Ben Sorer u'Moreh. The Gemara states that this sequence shows that one who marries an Eshes Yefas To'ar will eventually hate her, and they will eventually bear a Ben Sorer u'Moreh. Since the man gave into his lust to marry a non-Jewish woman against the Torah's advice (see Kidushin 21b), the son born from this union naturally emulates his own father's traits and follows his lusts. This is why the Torah quotes the parents who bring their rebellious son to Beis Din as saying, "Beneinu Zeh Sorer u'Moreh..." -- "this son of ours is wayward and rebellious..." (Devarim 21:20)," emphasizing that he is following the path of his own parents. The Torah, therefore, requires that his execution be announced publicly for the sake of encouraging other parents to raise their children in the path of the Torah. See YOSHEV OHALIM, Parshas Ki Setsei.)
The Ran explains the purpose of the announcement of the execution of the Zaken Mamrei in a similar manner. Most people cannot become a Zaken Mamrei, and thus the proclamation of the execution of a Zaken Mamrei is not to frighten the people in order to prevent them from transgressing the sin of a Zaken Mamrei. Rather, the purpose of the announcement is to show people the immense importance of the tradition of Torah she'Ba'al Peh. Even the greatest elder of Beis Din can become a Zaken Mamrei if he argues with the Sanhedrin. The Ran explains that this is why the Torah uses the words, "v'Lo Yezidun Od" -- "and they shall not continue to act sinfully" (Devarim 17:13), when it gives the reason for the public proclamation of the death of the Zaken Mamrei, and it does not say, "v'Lo Yosifu la'Asos Od ka'Davar ha'Ra ha'Zeh" -- "and they will not continue to do this evil thing," as it says with regard to Edim Zomemim (Devarim 19:20). Since the announcement of Zaken Mamrei is made as a warning to all people not to argue with the oral tradition of the Torah, it is phrased as a general statement. In contrast, the proclamation in the case of Edim Zomemim is a specific warning against emulating the sin of the Edim Zomemim. (With regard to a Ben Sorer u'Moreh, the Torah says only that the people shall hear and fear, and it does not say that as a result they should not sin. Perhaps this is because the announcement in the case of a Ben Sorer u'Moreh is not in order to prevent the people from transgressing, but rather it is to inspire the parents to be more careful with raising their children, as the Ran explains. Since the purpose of the announcement is to inspire a positive response, the Torah does not mention that the people should hear in order not to sin.)
The HA'ME'IR LA'OLAM gives a different reason for these announcements. He says that the reason for the announcements in these four cases of executions is because these four types of sins are the only ones for which it is not necessary to warn the sinner prior to his sin in order to punish him. He explains that the public announcement serves as the warning for all future incidents of the sin. He quotes the Gemara earlier (67a) which implies that a Mesis does not need a warning (see Insights to 8b). He quotes sources for the other three sins as well.
According to the RAMBAM (Hilchos Mamrim 7:7), however, a Ben Sorer u'Moreh does need a warning in order to be punished. What, then, is the purpose of the announcement?
The ha'Me'ir la'Olam answers that all of these warnings are directed to the people in order that they not emulate the sinner. This is understood from the verses regarding a Mesis and Edim Zomemim (as the Ran himself explains). This is also the intent of the verse regarding a Zaken Mamrei when it says "v'Lo Yezidun Od" (in contrast to the Ran's explanation).
In contrast, the announcement in the case of a Ben Sorer u'Moreh is in order to inspire all parents to strengthen their Chinuch of their children, as the Ran explains. Since the announcement is not for the sake of preventing people from transgressing the sin (as it is in the case of the other three sinners), but rather in order to encourage the parents, it does not serve as a warning, and thus the Rambam is justified in requiring that the Ben Sorer u'Moreh be warned before he can be punished, while he also requires that a public announcement of the execution of a Ben Sorer u'Moreh be made. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) A GENUINE PROPHET WHO SAYS TO TRANSGRESS A TORAH LAW
QUESTION: The Gemara states that when a Navi who is known to be genuine tells the people to do something contrary to the Torah, the people must listen to him. The Gemara proves this from Yitzchak Avinu, who listened to Avraham Avinu when he told Yitzchak that he was to be sacrificed, and from the Jewish people who listened to Eliyahu ha'Navi when he told them to slaughter an animal sacrifice even though at that time the offering of a Korban on an altar outside the Beis ha'Mikdash was forbidden.
(The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM points out that the reason why the verse quoted by the Gemara refers to "Eliyahu ha'Navi," while in other places it refers only to "Eliyahu," is to allude to the fact that the people listened to him and followed his word only because he was a known and established Navi.)
Why does the Gemara prove this from Yitzchak, who listened to Avraham, and from the Jewish people, who listened to Eliyahu? It should prove it from the fact that Avraham and Eliyahu themselves were prepared to act in a way that was contrary to Torah law!
ANSWER: The MAHARATZ CHAYOS explains that it is obvious that a Navi -- who knows that he has received a prophecy -- must follow it even if it contradicts a law in the Torah. The Gemara here teaches the conditions under which others may follow such a prophecy from a Navi.
The CHASAM SOFER, in a letter to the Maharatz Chayos, writes that the Maharatz Chayos' answer helps him understand a passage in the prayers of Rosh Hashanah. At the end of the Tefilah of Zichronos in the Shemoneh Esreh of Musaf, the prayer reads, "... and may You remember the Akeidah of Yitzchak for his children." Why is the Akeidah attributed to Yitzchak, and not to Avraham, who was the one who was commanded to perform the Akeidah? The Chasam Sofer answers that it is obvious that Avraham was to heed Hash-m's word to offer his son as a sacrifice, since Hash-m spoke to him directly. Yitzchak, however, could have doubted Avraham's prophecy, since it seemed to conflict with the entire essence of serving Hash-m. The fact that he was prepared to give up his life based on the prophecy that Avraham received is a tremendous merit for his children. (Y. MONTROSE)
3) WHY THE PEOPLE MUST LISTEN TO THE WORDS OF A PROPHET WHO SAYS TO TRANSGRESS THE TORAH
QUESTION: The Gemara states that when a Navi who is known to be genuine tells the people to do something contrary to the Torah, the people must listen to him. The Gemara proves this from Yitzchak Avinu and Eliyahu ha'Navi (see previous Insight).
What is the reason why the people must follow such a prophecy? Must they follow it because the Navi who relates the prophecy is so reliable, as he is recognized as one who knows and fulfills the will of Hash-m in all situations, or must they follow it because the prophecy itself negates a Torah commandment only temporarily?
(a) TOSFOS points out that there is a rule that Beis Din is permitted to suspend a law of the Torah temporarily for the sake of "Migdar Milsa," to create a protective fence around the Torah when people begin to become lax in its observance. Why does the Gemara need to teach that the people are allowed to follow a Navi who gives a prophecy which requires a temporary suspension of a Torah law? Even if he is not a Navi, the people may follow Beis Din when Beis
Din makes such an enactment!
Tosfos answers that the Beraisa cited by the Gemara in Yevamos (90b) says that the Navi is allowed to make enactments temporarily "according to the needs of the moment." Why is it necessary for the Navi's enactments to be "according to the needs of the moment"? If this Navi received a prophecy from Hash-m telling him to tell the people to do something, then the people must listen to him whether or not it addresses any timely needs! Tosfos asserts that it must be that the Gemara here refers only to a known Navi who says to transgress a Mitzvah temporarily even though he did not receive a prophecy to do so. The Gemara is teaching that the people are to listen to him only if the Navi says his prophecy as a result of the needs of the situation at that time, as Eliyahu did when he told the people to offer a sacrifice outside of the Beis ha'Mikdash, when doing so was the necessary course of action to bring about a nationwide strengthening of the people's belief in Hash-m. They people do not listen to him when he tells them, without a prophecy, to transgress a commandment when there is no apparent need to do so.
The MINCHAS CHINUCH states that this is also the opinion of the SEFER HA'CHINUCH, as implied in his explanation of the roots of the Mitzvah. The Sefer ha'Chinuch explains that "once someone is known to have reached the high spiritual level of prophecy, we should listen to everything he says, for he is the person who can guide us in the truth. We should never argue with him, because doing so is a terrible mistake and creates a lack of knowledge of the truth." This implies that the reason to listen to him is not that the people should not disobey a prophecy, but rather because the people should let him guide them in the right way to serve Hash-m. This is applicable to all of his messages, even those that are not prophecies.
(b) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Yesodei ha'Torah 9:3) seems to disagree with the approach of Tosfos. The Rambam explains what Eliyahu's answer would have been had someone asked Eliyahu how he could tell the people to transgress a Mitzvah of the Torah. The Rambam says that Eliyahu would have said that someone who does the act under normal circumstances is indeed Chayav Kares. "However, I (Eliyahu) am doing this today by the word of Hash-m in order to refute the belief in the idol of Ba'al." The LECHEM MISHNEH deduces from this that the Rambam learns that doing an act which is contrary to a Torah commandment would have been acceptable only if Eliyahu had received a prophetic vision to do so. (Tosfos here gives another approach that seems to be consistent with the view of the Rambam.) (Y. MONTROSE)