What's Bothering Rashi? Parshat Mishpatim: He Has No Blood
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Mishpatim(Exodus 21-24)

He Has No Blood

This week's parsha comes right after the Giving of the Torah at Sinai, and contains numerous mitzvot - 53 to be exact. These are mostly mitzvot between man and man, though there are some that are between man and God. An array of civil laws are recorded. Following is one relating to an intruder who is killed while secretly entering someone's home.

Exodus 22:1

If while breaking in, the thief is discovered and he is struck and dies he has no blood.

 

RASHI

He has no blood - RASHI: This is not murder, for he (the intruder) is as if dead already. From this the Torah teaches us that if one comes to kill you, you should rise early to kill him. And in this case (our verse), he (the intruder) has come with intent to kill you, for he knows that no one will stand by and see someone run off with his money and remain silent. Therefore on this understanding he entered – that if the owner will stand up against him he will have to kill him.

 

WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?

Rashi is telling us that the words he has no blood refer to the intruder and mean he is a dead man - just as a dead man has no vital fluids, so this man is as good as dead. Therefore if the householder kills him, he is innocent, for it is as if he has killed a dead man.

The point of Rashi's comment is to interpret the strange phrase he has no blood.

 

RASHBAM AND IBN EZRA

The Rashbam and the Ibn Ezra (they were contemporaries and both lived during Rashi's lifetime) interpret this phrase differently. They say it means the householder who killed the intruder has no blood guilt - that is, he is innocent. So all three commentaries agree the verse is telling us that the killing is not punishable since the man killed in self-defense.

But they disagree on the object of the pronoun he in he has no blood. Rashi says it refers to the intruder. Rashbam and Ibn Ezra say it refers to the householder.

Can you justify Rashi's choice? Why does Rashi think the word refers to the intruder?

Hint: Look at the whole verse.

Your Answer:

 

UNDERSTANDING RASHI

An Answer: In our verse the only person mentioned is the intruder. There is no direct mention of the householder. So Rashi assumes that the pronoun refers back to the intruder.

Perhaps the Rashbam and Ibn Ezra interpret he has no blood as referring to the householder because the alternative, saying that he has no blood - refering to the thief - is a strange way to refer to a guilty man.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Rashi adds an additional point when he says: From this the Torah teaches us that if one comes to kill you, you should rise early to kill him. This is the concept of self-defense.

But why do you think he used the words rise up early ? He could just have said, From this the Torah teaches us that if one comes to kill you, you should kill him.

What do think these words teach us?

Your Answer:

 

A BETTER UNDERSTANDING

A person might deliberate when approached by a suspicious and dangerous looking person How do I know he REALLY intends to kill me? Maybe I should wait until I'm absolutely positive of his murderous intentions. Therefore Rashi says rise up early - be proactive. You cannot wait until the last minute, because by then it may be too late. Of course, one must always use his judgement and not be trigger-happy. But when it comes down to my life or his – my life comes first!

 

Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek


Published: December 31, 1969

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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Sarah, January 27, 2011 3:00 PM

צה"ל, take note...

Perhaps someone could send this to the VIPs in Zahal? Should they take it to heart, quite a few lives of our soldiers would be saved...

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