Friday, May 31, 2019

Parshas Behukosai 5779

Who is Being Ransomed?

The Torah writes (Leviticus 27:29):
No human being who has been proscribed can be ransomed: he shall be put to death.
Chizkuni explains the wording:
The somewhat awkward wording of this verse is due to the four different types of death penalty that a Jewish court can impose for different types of capital offences. Our verse applies to any of these kinds of death sentences.
Rashi explain that this refers to Arachin:

This means, if a person is going to be executed and someone says, “I take upon myself to pay his ערך” he has said nothing (his vow is of none effect); you see, he is going to be put to death, and he therefore cannot be redeemed, — he has neither a market-value (דמים) nor an ‎ערך

Bechor Shor (ibid) explains that he cannot be redeemed with money in order not to die based on this verse (Numbers 35:51):
You may not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of a capital crime; he must be put to death.
(The Talmud [Arachin 6b] explains that since those deemed to die by the hand of Heaven can use money to redeem themselves, we may make the same mistake for those sentenced by a regular court. Therefore, the verse teaches us otherwise)

Tur HaAruch cites the Ramban with three additional explanations:
The Torah had previously stated that anyone consecrating man or beast or chattels and land which he himself owns forfeits the right to redeem such as it automatically becomes the property of the priests and has already lost the status of being something consecrated. However, if someone consecrates something, i.e. the equivalent monetary value of something or someone whom he does not own, such property or people would not become the property of the priests.
I found further in Yalkut Shimoni (chapter 76 on the Book of Judges) that Rabbi Akiva is quoted as equating the word חרם in our portion with the word שבועה, oath. He derives from our verse that any High Court or legally appointed king, is entitled, especially, when all the tribes are represented when he declares such a decree, to impose the death penalty for violating an oath that bound the entire Jewish people to perform or to refrain from performing a certain task as the case may be.
And regarding Yiftach:
If so, we can understand Yiphtach’s cardinal error, due to arrogance, when he had failed to seek “redemption” from his vow, seeing he had never meant to sacrifice his only daughter if G’d were to grant him victory. He had mistakenly been under the impression that his vow (oath) was valid and could not be annulled. He was not unaware of the legislation enabling such annulment, but assumed that a leader of the nation could not avail himself of an option like this. It had not occurred to him that a vow to offer someone as a burnt offering, when that someone is essentially disqualified as an offering on the altar, has no legal validity at all. [Even if instead of his daughter being the first to welcome him, a cockerel had done so, he would not have had to kill that cockerel, as it is essentially not fit as an offering on the altar. Ed.]

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