SALT - Wednesday, Yom Ha-Zikaron, 3 Iyar 5776, Omer 18 - May 11, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            The Torah in Parashat Emor introduces the story of the megadef (“blasphemer”) by saying, “The son of an Israelite woman…went out among the Israelites…” (24:10).  Rashi, noting the seemingly peculiar description of the megadef “going out” to curse the Name of God, cites three readings from the Midrash of this word, “va-yeitzei” (“went out”).  The first interprets the term as “mei-olamo yatza,” which literally means, “he left from his world.”  The Sefer Ha-zikaron (cited in the Torat Chayim edition of the Chumash) explains that the megadef condemned himself to death – to departing from this world – through his grievous sin, for which he was sentenced to capital punishment.

            The Klausenberger Rebbe, however, explained “mei-olamo yatza” differently, suggesting that it relates to Rashi’s other two interpretations of this verse.  The first of these is that the megadef arrived at blasphemy after learning the halakha presented in the previous section – the obligation of lechem ha-panim, the special bread baked and placed on the table in the Bet Ha-mikdash. The bread would remain on the table for an entire week before being removed and replaced with fresh bread.  The megadef’s decline to blasphemy began when he angrily objected to this law, arguing that having stale bread on the table in the Temple is disrespectful.  Rashi’s final interpretation is that the megadef arrived at blasphemy when he lost a court case brought against him.  In his frustration and resentment, he cursed God.  The Klausenberger Rebbe suggested that the megadef’s fundamental flaw which led him to his tragic end was “olamo” – the fact that he lived in his own world, convinced that the truth was found only with him, that he was always correct and everybody else was always wrong.  He left his “world” only to condemn and criticize, not to consider other possibilities or learn from others.  In his arrogance and inflexibility, he refused to accept a policy in the Beit Ha-mikdash which in his mind was improper, and he refused to acknowledge that his stance in a civil suit was wrong.  The megadef cloistered himself in “olamo,” in a very narrow, rigid mindset that could not consider alternatives or different perspectives, and this is what led to his downfall.

            Certainly, there will be times when we need to stick firmly to our convictions in the face of opposition.  However, the Rebbe’s insight warns against closing ourselves off in a narrow ideological and conceptual space that does not allow room for even considering different perspectives.  There may be times when, as in the case of the megqdef, we might be sincerely troubled by something we perceive as dishonorable to God, but which in truth is what God Himself wants.  We must not rush to conclusions based on our intuition and instinctive reactions.  Rather, we must always consider whether perhaps other perspectives may be valid, that our understanding is limited and often flawed, and that we do not always have the absolute and definitive truth about any given subject.