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Friday, June 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Shelach

In the end of the parsha we have the episode of the mekosheish eitzim, the one who gathered wood on Shabbos who was given the death penalty for transgression of Shabbos. Targum Yonasan writes that the mekosheish acted with good intentions. Until that time it was only known that a transgressor of Shabbos is given death but it was not known which of the four forms of capital punishment were to be administered. The mekosheish transgressed the Shabbos in order to expose to the true halachah.

Maharsha (Bava Basra 119a) asks how he could take such drastic measures as to transgress Shabbos just to teach this halachah. He answers that in truth, since he performed the act with the sole intention of fining out the halachah, it is considered a melacha she'eina tzricha le'gufa, a work that is not needed for its principal purpose for which one is not liable. For example, if one digs a ditch because he needs the dirt, he is not liable for digging a ditch because he did not need the ditch. So too here, the mokosheish's purpose had nothing to do with the actual melachah. However, since he did not inform the witnesses, he was liable for the death penalty. However, min haShamayim, he did not transgress Shabbos.

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The sentence given to the mekosheish was sekilah, stoning. The mishnah (Sanhedrin 45a) discusses the sekilah procedure. One of the witnesses pushes the offender of a cliff and if he does not die from that, they throw a large rock on him. If he still doesn't die, then everyone stones him until he dies. The gemara (45b) presents a conflict, quoting a beraysa which states that it never occurred that they actually reached the third step of the entire nation throwing stones. The gemara answers that the mishnah was indeed not telling us that it happened but rather that if it were to come to that, that would be the procedure. However, it seems to state clearly in the parsha (15:36) that the entire nation stoned him. How are we to interpret the beraysa or the pasuk?

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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