Friday, May 10, 2019

Tripping the Vision Impaired

Parashat Kedoshim contains a total of 51 mitzvot. One of those mitzvot pertains to the prohibition of taking advantage of the disadvantaged. “You shall not curse a deaf person and you shall not place a stumbling block before a blind person, and you shall revere your God, I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:14). Clearly, only an unfeeling, insensitive individual could purposely take advantage of the disabled. Jewish Treats has previously addressed the meaning of “placing a stumbling block in front of the blind.” Our sages understood this prohibition as setting someone up for sin. Asking a Nazirite (one who has taken a vow against contact with the dead, cutting one’s hair and consuming drinks made from grape products) to travel a certain route which includes a cemetery, is a classic example of violating the prohibition of placing a stumbling block in front of the blind.

Rabbi Joseph. B Soloveitchik asked whether someone who actually committed the absolutely heinous act of literally placing a stumbling block in front of a blind individual, would actually violate the transgression, or is it only meant figuratively, as in the case with the Nazirite? Rabbi Soloveitchik asked the question because of a few words that are found in the Sefer Hachinuch code.

The Chinuch comments on all 613 commandments (according to Maimonides’ count) and explains the rationale of each mitzvah, teaching the laws and describing who must fulfil it, and the punishment one receives when violated. At the end of the Chinuch’s 232nd mitzvah (Do not place a stumbling block in front of the blind), the author adds “there are no lashes for one who transgresses this mitzvah for there is no action associated with it.” This means, according to Rabbi Soloveitchik, if one were to stick their foot out as a blind person walked by, causing him to trip, they would not violate this mitzvah.

But, isn’t there a rule that, ultimately, the literal meaning of a verse may not be dismissed? How then is this question addressed? Rabbi Soloveitchik answered: “It appears that placing a stone in front of a blind person is such a cruel and grotesque act that the Torah did not even think it worthy of mention. For a Jew to act with such evil intent would cause us to question his very Jewishness. Because the Torah is addressing the Jewish people exclusively, mentioning such a prohibition explicitly was unnecessary.” (Rabbi Aaron Ziegler, Halachic Positions of Rabbi Soloveitchik Vol. 1, pp. 175-176 as quoted in Chumash Mesoras HaRav)

Copyright © 2019 NJOP. All rights reserved.

No comments: