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FRUMToronto Articles Parsha Pearls

Devrei Torah relating to the weekly Parsha.

Blog Image: rav wolbe.jpg
Dvar Torah # 626 Parshas Korach
Pirkei Avos 1, 9

שמעון בן שטח אומר הוי מרבה לחקור את העדים (אבות א:ט)
Shimon ben Shatach says, "Interrogate the witnesses extensively"

Once again, the simple interpretation explains this Mishna too as a directive limited to judges alone. The importance of interrogating the witnesses is abundantly clear. Although at face value it might seem that the testimonies of both witnesses are entirely compatible, however, when a judge probes a little deeper he might find inconsistencies which invalidate their testimonies. As a matter of a fact, the Rishonim write that Shimon ben Shatach's dictum was borne out of such a story of false testimony which had a profound effect upon him:
The Yerushalmi relates that Shimon ben Shatach, in accordance with the Torah dictates to kill a witch, hanged eighty witches in one day. The children of these women wished to take revenge and they hired two witnesses to falsely testify that Shimon ben Shatach's son was guilty of a sin deserving the death penalty. As a result of their testimony his son was taken to be killed. At that point the witnesses could no longer bear their guilt and they admitted their crime. Yet, unfortunately it was too late, since according to Torah law once testimonies have been cross examined and accepted, the witnesses have no right to renege on their word. From then on, Shimon ben Shatach would warn judges to interrogate the witnesses extensively, for had they grilled them a little more, maybe their testimony would never have been accepted in the first place.

Additionally, even when the witnesses actually observed everything that they related in court, not always are things how they seem at face value. The smallest piece of missing information can drastically affect how people perceive any given scenario. For a case in point we can borrow the Chafetz Chaim's well known mashal regarding a human being's perception of the events taking place in the world:
An ignorant fellow showed up in Shul and heard someone in the middle of davening (Ashrei) call out, "All those who love Him and all the wicked He will destroy." He pinches himself and he isn't dreaming! He really heard it with his two own ears and he simply can't believe it: "How could Hashem possibly destroy all His loved ones along with the wicked? He turns to the man sitting next to him and demands an explanation. "Don't be silly" he answers. "You showed up a second too late and didn't hear the first words of the pasuk, "Hashem protects all those who love Him (and all the wicked He will destroy)." What he heard, he heard correctly, but he was still missing an integral piece of the puzzle.

With this in mind, we will discover that the Tanna included in his proverb a lesson for each and every one of us. Often we are presented with testimony or proofs of some scenario that transpired. Not everything is as it seems at face value. This certainly goes for some of the things that we read in the news which were conveniently tailored by the media, and for all intents and purposes they are comparable to an entirely false testimony. (Once, a newspaper gave a short account of a Hachnasas Sefer Torah, and Rav Wolbe's son-in-law pointed out more than 10 untruths in the few lines! If that is true with regard to something that the reporter has no prejudice to misrepresent, how much more so does it apply to things that a journalist has a motive to misrepresent the facts).
Additionally, sometimes we hear a story and we can't believe our ears. Could Chaim Yankel really have done that? Hold on. Did we interrogate the witnesses extensively to see if they really know what happened down to the minutest detail? Do we really know what went on? For some reason it is always easier to just believe than to just not believe. Shimon ben Shatach teaches us to question our evidence before accepting them as truths.

A practical application to help implement this idea: We read emails all the time. Most of them are straightforward without any room for mistake. Then, there are those one or two emails written by someone you thought to be a friend, and you can't figure out how he could write something so callous! However, there is a problem with emails - you can't hear the "tone" that the email was written in. You took it one way and he meant something else. So, before you erupt, interrogate the witness and find out what he really meant. You will have not only become a talmid of Shimon ben Shatach, you will save yourself a lot of unnecessary heartache!

Correction: Last week due to a typo, the dvar Torah read: "In a similar vein, if one sees someone slip up, he should automatically write them off forever."
The correct sentence should read: In a similar vein, if one sees someone slip up, he should NOT automatically write them off forever.
We thank you for pointing out the mistake.

Posted 6/14/2018 11:08 PM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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