Friday, August 5, 2011

Lo saguru - Do not be afraid

After Moshe appointed the judges, he said to them;
לֹא תָגוּרוּ מִפְּנֵי אִישׁ כִּי הַמִּשְׁפָּט לֵאלֹקִים הוּא
“You (the judges) should not be afraid of any man because judgment belongs to Hashem…”

To what extent must the judges not be afraid?

The gemara says in Sanhedrin (6b)
...וריש לקיש אמר שנים שבאו לדין אחד רך ואחד קשה עד שלא תשמע דבריהן או משתשמע דבריהן ואי אתה יודע להיכן דין נוטה אתה רשאי לומר להם אין אני נזקק לכם שמא נתחייב חזק ונמצא חזק רודפו משתשמע דבריהן ואתה יודע להיכן הדין נוטה אי אתה יכול לומר להן איני נזקק לכם שנא' (דברים א, יז) לא תגורו מפני איש
“Reish Lakish says – if two people come to judgment, one is easy to deal with and one is hard to deal with – before you have heard the case or even if you have heard the case and you do not know which is likely to be correct, then you are allowed to say ‘I will not judge the case.’ Perhaps the strong one will become chayav and he will harass the judge. However once you have heard the case and you know which way the outcome is tending you cannot say to them ‘I will not judge this case’ because the passuk says ‘לא תגורו מפני איש’ – ‘You shall not be afraid of any man.’”

Rashi explains that the concern for the judge is;
שמא יתחייב חזק ונמצא רודפו - רודף את הדיין להפך את הדין
“Perhaps the strong one will be chayav and he will harass the judge – the gemara means that he will harass the judge to change the legal decision.”

According to Rashi, the gemara is not talking about a case where there is any perceived danger to the judge. There is merely the possibility that he will harass him to change the judgment. The Bach explains (see ב"ח חושן משפט ס' י"ב אות א') that according to Rashi, if there would be a concern of actual danger then the judge would not need to judge the case, just as in all other mitzvos that we are patur from if there is the possibility of danger.

Tosafos (d”h nimtzah chazak rodpho according to ב"ח חושן משפט ס' י"ב אות א') and the Rambam argue on Rashi and say that even if there is actual possible danger from a litigant the judge still has to judge the case. The Rambam says in Hilchos Sanhedrin (22:1):
שנים שבאו לפניך לדין אחד רך ואחד קשה ...אבל משתשמע את דבריהם ותדע להיכן הדין נוטה אי אתה רשאי לומר איני נזקק לכם שנאמר לא תגורו מפני איש שלא תאמר איש פלוני רשע הוא שמא יהרוג את בני שמא ידליק את גדישי שמא יקצץ נטיעותי...
“If two people come to judgment, one is easy to deal with and one is hard to deal with …once you have heard the case and you know which way the outcome is tending you cannot say to them ‘I will not judge this case’ as the passuk says ‘לא תגורו מפני איש’ – ‘You shall not be afraid of any man.’ This means you should not say that person is a rasha, maybe he will kill my son, maybe he will burn my grain or maybe he will destroy my plants…”

  • This is difficult to understand, why should the judge ignore the possible danger to his son? Surely the general rule in all mitzvos is v’chai bahem – you should not do a mitzvah if this would cause danger to life?
 The Ramban in Bereishis (34:13) says the issur of lo saguru only applies to a Yisrael;
...נראה מכאן שרשאי הגוי לאמר לבעלי הדין 'איני נזקק לכם', כי תוספת היא בישראל (דברים א יז): "לא תגורו מפני איש" - "אל תכניס דבריך מפני איש"...
“..it appears from the Yerushalmi that a non-Jew is allowed to say to litigants, ‘I will not judge your case.’ With the benei yisrael there is an additional mitzvah (besides the mitzvah to judge) of “לא תגורו מפני איש” – “Do not hesitate to say the halachah”…”
  • The Ramban is difficult to understand. Seeing as lo saguru describes the way the judge has to deliver judgement, and seeing that a non-Jew also has to judge, why does the mitzvah of lo saguru not also apply to a non-Jew?
Rb Moshe Aharon Bleich explains as follows;

The gemara says in Bava Kamma (38a);
ת"ר וכבר שלחה מלכות רומי שני סרדיוטות אצל חכמי ישראל למדונו תורתכם קראו ושנו ושלשו בשעת פטירתן אמרו להם דקדקנו בכל תורתכם ואמת הוא חוץ מדבר זה שאתם אומרים שור של ישראל שנגח שור של כנעני פטור של כנעני שנגח שור של ישראל בין תם בין מועד משלם נזק שלם ממ"נ אי רעהו דוקא אפילו דכנעני כי נגח דישראל ליפטר ואי רעהו לאו דוקא אפילו דישראל כי נגח דכנעני לחייב ודבר זה אין אנו מודיעים אותו למלכות
“The Roman government sent two judges to the chachmei yisrael who said ‘Teach us your Torah!’ They learnt the halachos two and three times. When they left they said to them, ‘We have inspected your Torah and it is true besides the law that says that if the ox of a Yisrael gores the ox of a Knaani then the owner is patur. On the other hand if an ox of a Knaani gores the ox of a Yisrael … then the owner has to pay the entire damage…However we will not tell this halacha to the government.”

The Yam Shel Shlomoh (Bava Kamma, perek 4:9) asks why they told them that this was the halacha? Seeing as this could have endangered klal yisrael they should have either have said that they are both patur or they should have said that they are both chayav?

He explains;
...גם שמעינן מהאי ברייתא דאסור לשנות דברי תורה אף במקום סכנה, וחייב למסור עצמו עליה...הלא לא תמצא דבר קשה כזה לומר בפני האומות שאנחנו פטורין מהיזיקן והם חייבים...וא"כ היה להם לשנות או שניהם חייבים או שניהם פטורין...ואם ח"ו ישנה הדין הוה ככופר בתורת משה...
“We see from this beraisah that it is assur to change the Torah even in cases of danger … Surely this is the worst thing that they could have said to the Roman judges – that we are patur if we cause them damage but the other way around they are chayav! They should have said to them that they are either both chayav or they are both patur?

The reason that it is assur to change the halacha is because [there is no difference between changing one halacha or changing the whole Torah, so that] if someone changes the halacha it is as if he has denied the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu...”

According to the Yam Shel Shlomoh, the chachamim were obligated to tell the Romans the correct halacha so as not to falsify the Torah, even although this caused possible danger to the entire community.

Rb Bleich explains that similarly the reason that Tosafos and the Rambam say that a judge has to judge even if this may cause danger to himself is for the same reason. Just as it was assur for the chachamim to change the halacha, even when explaining the Torah to a non-Jew, similarly it is assur for a dayan to not judge a case becuase he is afraid as this would mean that he is not passing on the practical halacha for this case.

We can therefore understand that because the basis of the issur of lo saguru is not passing on the practical halachah, this issur does not apply to non-Jews. Although they also have a chiyuv to judge, they do not have a chiyuv to pass on the Torah.

For the benei yisrael the Torah says;
לֹא תָגוּרוּ מִפְּנֵי אִישׁ כִּי הַמִּשְׁפָּט לֵאלֹקִים הוּא
“You (the judges) should not be afraid of any man because the judgment belongs to Hashem..”

The judgement that the dayan rules belongs to Hashem – so he has to issue it and publicise it. However the non-Jewish judge does not have to pass on the Torah, thereefore there is no issur for him not to judge in a case where this could cause him harm.

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