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Daniel and Karl record live in front of an audience at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati.  The audience was amazing in contributing to our chevruta Bible study of chapter 23.  We took questions and heard from a variety of readers as we went.  Enjoy!You can download the podcast from iTunes or any other fine podcast distributor, or listen to it with the player below.  Midrash is below the player.

Exodus 23

(Mechilta) Put not your hand with the wicked to be a corrupt witness (23:1)

Even to retrieve monies that are justly yours.

 

(Talmud, Bava Metzia 59b) Follow the majority (23:2)

[Rabbi Eliezer and the sages debated a point of law regarding the ritual purity of a certain type of oven.]

Rabbi Eliezer declared it clean, and the sages declared it unclean . . .

 

On that day, Rabbi Eliezer brought forward every imaginable argument, but they did not accept them. Said he to them: “If the law agrees with me, let this carob tree prove it!” Thereupon the carob tree was torn a hundred cubits out of its place. (Others say, four hundred cubits.) Said the sages: “No proof can be brought from a carob tree.”

 

Again he said to them: “If the law agrees with me, let the stream of water prove it!” Whereupon the stream of water flowed backwards. Said the sages: “No proof can be brought from a stream of water.”

 

Said Rabbi Eliezer: “If the law agrees with me, let the walls of the study hall prove it!” Whereupon the walls inclined to fall. But Rabbi Joshua rebuked them, saying: “When scholars are engaged in a halachic dispute, what have you to interfere?” Hence they did not fall, in deference to Rabbi Joshua, nor did they resume standing upright, in deference to Rabbi Eliezer; and they are still standing thus inclined.

 

Finally, Rabbi Eliezer said to them: “If the law is as I say, may it be proven from heaven!” There then issued a heavenly voice which proclaimed: “What do you want of Rabbi Eliezer? The law is as he says!”

 

Rabbi Joshua stood on his feet and said: “The Torah is not in heaven!” . . . We take no notice of heavenly voices, since You, G‑d, have already, at Sinai, written in the Torah to follow the majority.

 

Rabbi Nathan subsequently met Elijah the prophet and asked him: “What did G‑d do at that moment?” [Elijah] replied: “He smiled and said: ‘My children have triumphed over Me, My children have triumphed over Me.’”

 

(Rashi) You shall not follow the majority for evil (23:2)

If you see wicked people perverting justice, do not say, “Since they are many, I will follow them.”

 

(Rashi) and do not kill a truly innocent person or one who has been declared innocent (23:7)

How do we know that if one emerges from the court guilty [and is given the death sentence], and one [of the judges] says, “I have a way to prove his innocence,” we must bring him back [to the court and retry him]? Because the Torah states: “and do not kill a truly innocent person.” Although he was not declared innocent-for he was not vindicated by the court-he is, nevertheless, free from the death penalty, because you have reason to acquit him. And how do we know that if one emerges from the court innocent, and one [of the judges] says, “I have a way to prove his guilt,” we do not bring him back to the court [to retry him]? Because the Torah states: “and do not kill… one who is declared innocent.” And this one is innocent because he was vindicated by the court. -[From Mechilta, Sanh. 33b]

 

(Rashi) for a bribe will blind the clear-sighted (23:8)

Even if one is wise in Torah, and he accepts a bribe, he will eventually become deranged, forget his studies, and lose his eyesight. -[From Keth. 105a, Mechilta]

 

(Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 31a) You shall not oppress the stranger… (23:9)

On another occasion it happened that a certain non-Jew came before Shammai and said to him, “I will convert to Judaism, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Shammai chased him away with the builder’s tool that was in his hand. He came before Hillel and said to him, “Convert me.” Hillel said to him, “What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn it.”

 

(BT Chulin — 115b)  You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk (23:19)

The school of Rebbi Yishmael taught: Thou shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk, is stated three times: one is a prohibition against eating it, one a prohibition against deriving benefit

from it, and one a prohibition against cooking it.

 

(Rabeinu Bachaye) You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk (23:19)

Those who mix meat–which requires death–and milk–which is the source of life–are in danger of timtum halev.

 

(Orach Chaim, 223:6 Ramah) You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk (23:19)

The prohibition against meat and milk also serves to remind us where our food comes from….This is similar to the law that allows us to wear clothing of leather, but suggests that we do not wish our friend to “wear it out”, because getting a new one involves the death of an animal.

 

(Tanchuma; Rashi) the tzir’ah (23:28)

[This was] a kind of flying insect, which would strike them [people] in their eyes, inject venom into them, and they would die.