Whose Fault is it? by Sam Wiseman


At the very end of this week’s Parsha, the Torah relates the story of the “Ben Isha Yisraelit”  (Vayikra 24:10).  The Torah tells us about a man, the son of a Jewish woman, who left (ויצא) from some unnamed place into the midst of the camp and fought with a Jew within the camp.  These events culminate in the “Ben Isha Yisraelit’s” cursing Hashem.  He is subsequently brought to Moshe, who places him in confinement so that Moshe can ask Hashem what to do.  This is one of the few instances in the Torah where Moshe does not know how to proceed and must consult Hashem.

                This story obviously is missing much information, and many Rishonim disagree as to what exactly is going on.  The Torah states that the blasphemer’s father was not Jewish and that his mother was Jewish.  Rashi, citing a Midrash, asserts that ויצא refers to his leaving the Bait Din of Moshe.  He says that this man tried to settle among Shevet Dan (the tribe of his mother), and they would not permit him to do so.  Therefore, this man went to Moshe to inquire whether he in fact was allowed to settle with the rest of Bnai Yisrael.  Moshe replied no, and it is for this reason that this man was infuriated to the extent that he cursed Hashem.  Ramban helps us understand what the actual status of this “Ben Yisraelit” was.  He concludes that according to Halacha this man was considered a Jew, but one who had no right to land.

                Now that we understand where this man is coming from, we have to find out what actually transpired when he reached the camp for the second time.  The Malbim points out that when the Torah describes the fight, it calls one person the “Ben Yisraelit” and the other “Ish Yisraelit.”  Why would this be if at this point in time the “Ben Yisraelit” had converted?  The Malbim suggests that it is because Bnai Yisrael treated him as if he were an outsider and not one of them.  Let us not forget who this man is.  According to the Midrash, he is the son of the Mitzri that Moshe killed in Mitzrayim.  Bnai Yisrael treated this convert so badly that he began to think about where he actually came from.  He became enraged to the extent that he used the very same שם המפורש to curse Hashem here that Moshe used to kill the his father.

                Perhaps this was Moshe’s dilemma.  Perhaps this is why he did not know what exactly to do with this man who clearly violated the איסור of מברך שם ה', yet was pushed into it by his inconsiderate peers.  Further support may be derived for this position from what happens later in the story.  Moshe is commanded to stone him, and anyone who heard the “Ben Ish Yisraelit’s” curse was commanded to do Smicha, or put all their weight on the מקלל.  Perhaps this represents the fact that the people around the “Ben Yisraelit” were at fault as well, and that is why they all had to lean on him.  They needed to show part ownership, much like the way Bnai Yisrael leaned on the Leviim during the פדיון in Sefer Bemidbar Sinai to achieve forgiveness (Chizkuni).

                Therefore, we can conclude that although the “Ben Yisraelit” did something wrong and deserved to be punished for it, it was also somewhat the fault of Bnai Yisrael who could not accept a גר in their midst.

Shtei Amirot by Noam Block

Blemish Free by Yair Manas