Shoftim 5777


לא ירבה לו סוסים… ולא ירבה לו נשים (דברים יז:טז-יז)

He (the king) shall not have too many horses for himself… and he shall not
have too many wives (Devarim 17:16-17)

The Torah mandates that a king may not marry many wives. The Torah continues to explain the reason for this prohibition, as the wives may sway his heart from Hashem. Similarly, the Torah prohibits the king from raising and owning many horses. Here, too, the Torah gives a reason for the prohibition: that he not return to Egypt to buy fine horses.
These two mitzvos are unique in the Torah as they are accompanied by a reason, whereas all the other mitzvos are not. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 21b) asks, “Why doesn’t the Torah explain the reason for the mitzvos?” The Gemara answers, “The reasons for two mitzvos were given, and because of that Shlomo Hamelech succumbed to the aveira. The first mitzvah, לא ירבה לו נשים, for they may persuade him to do aveiros. The second mitzvah,לא ירבה לו סוסים , because he may go back to Mitzrayim to get more horses. And indeed, the wives of Shlomo Hamelech did in fact sway his heart.”
The Midrash in Shemos Rabbah says that when Shlomo Hamelech married many wives, the letter Yud in the word ירבה came to Hashem and complained that Shlomo was negating him. Hashem answered, “I will get rid of 1000 people like Shlomo Hamelech, but even aקוצה of a ‘Yud’ in the Torah will never be בטל.”
Why was it only the letter Yud that protested, and not the entire word?
The Techeiles Mordechai offers the following explanation. When describing the king, the Torah writes,”והיה כשבחו” , “when the king will sit,” using the future tense, implying that his responsibilities take effect when he will be sitting on his throne. This is meant to forewarn the king that he should not follow the path of many elected officials who make promises before they take office, but once they take office they renege on all these promises. This is because power corrupts, and the once humble candidate becomes a haughty official. Therefore, the Torah addresses the king as if he was already in office and commands that he follow the laws applicable to a king. The word ירבה can also be understood in this vein, i.e., the Torah is telling him not to marry many wives after he is already king. Shlomo married his wives after he became king, confident that they would not sway his heart. It was the Yud that denotes the future tense that expressed the concern over Shlomo’s action, and not the rest of the word.
The Maharal Diskind answers that the Torah could have writtenולא תרבה in second person. With the Yud, it is in third person, which means that Beis Din must make sure that a king does not take many wives. Shlomo Hamelech, being a חכם מכל אדם, felt that he was above this law and did not have to listen to Beis Din. Therefore, the Yud came forward to complain.
The Kedushas Levi explains that the letter Yud symbolizes chochma, understanding. Since it was because of Shlomo Hamelech’s chachma that he thought he would not be swayed by his many wives, it is fitting for the Yud to complain.
The Sefas Emes extends the above idea. The actual wisdom of Shlomo, expressed by the Yud, left Shlomo and returned to its source. Shlomo lost his chochma for having acted against the words of the Torah. It was not a punishment; rather, the words of the Torah are the reality of this world. If the Torah says that this is what will happen, it is a fact, not an option.
Our approach to mitzvos should be enhanced by this knowledge. We, too, should realize that it is not the reason for the mitzvah that should motivate us, but the fact that the Torah prescribed the mitzvah.


ועשיתם לו כאשר זמם לעשות לאחיו (דברים יט:יט)

And you should do to the witnesses as they attempted to do to their brother (Devarim 19:19)

The punishment of the עדים זוממין, false witnesses who attempted to unjustly punish someone through false testimony, is a taste of their own medicine. They merit the same punishment that they sought to bring on another.
The Gemara (Makkos 5b) learns from here that they only get this punishment if their testimony was not carried out. If, however, their victim was actually punished, they are פטור. This fascinating Din seems like a חוק, a law beyond our comprehension.
The Meforshim in fact attempt to explain the reasoning behind this Din. The Ramban writes that in truth, the second pair of עדים (the מזימים) should not be believed any more than the first (the מוזמים). Why is their testimony more credible than the first group? Therefore, the Torah says, examine the case. If the עדים become revealed as זוממים before the punishment was meted out, this points in the direction of his innocence. Because he is truly innocent, Hashem has come to save him, as the Pasuk says, כי לא אצדיק רשע (שמות כג:ז), “I will not make innocent a wicked man” (Shemos 23:7). Accordingly, in the following example, if two עדים testify that Reuven killed Shimon and is חייב מיתה and are found to be liars through a second group of witnesses, the second group is believed and the first group is killed.
However, if the defendant had already been killed, this proves his guilt. The testimony of the first group is assumed to be true; otherwise, Hashem would not have left him at their mercy. Furthermore, Hashem would not allow the Beis Din to make such a blunder as to kill an innocent man. Thus, the זוממים עדים only get punished for their attempt, but not if their ill intentions bore fruit.
Rabbeinu Bechaya explains this in a similar vein, but he is not willing to go so far as to say that the timing of the second testimony reveals whether the first group should be believed or not. He explains that the Torah believes the second group regardless. However, if their testimony comes only after the defendant was killed, it proves that the defendant was a רשע deserving to die, albeit because of other sins.
His explanation is problematic, as he himself questions why, even if this person did deserve to die, the זוממים עדים should be exonerated. They attempted and accomplished, through falsehood, the death of another man, and therefore deserve to be punished.
According to the Ramban, this is not a valid question, for his death proves that the original testimony was true.
The Sfas Emes (ליקוטים) does not accept the Ramban’s reasoning. The Ramban maintains that the result should be that any time the defendant is killed, the עדים are פטור. This is problematic from the Gemara (Makkos 6b), which discusses a case where two different sets of witnesses testified that Reuven killed Shimon. Then, one group was found to be זוממין. The Halacha is that those עדים are killed for being זוממין, and the defendant is killed because of the testimony of the other עדים. According to the Ramban, once the defendant is killed, that should prove that the עדים are not זוממין and they should be פטור.
Therefore, the Sfas Emes says, the reason the עדים are not killed if the defendant was killed is that their aveira is too great. It would not be a Kappara for them if they merely received the punishment they brought upon this innocent person. Therefore, Beis Din does not punish them.