Shoftim 5778

RABBI AVROHOM PARMETT

ודברו השוטרים אל העם לאמר מי האיש אשר בנה בית חדש ולא חנכו ילך וישב לביתו
פן ימות במלחמה ואיש אחר יחנכנו (דברים כ:ה)

And the officers shall speak to the Nation saying, “Who is the man who has built a new house and has not yet inaugurated it; he shall go and return to his home, lest he die in war, and another man will inaugurate it [instead]” (Devarim 20:5)

The Vilna Gaon discusses the concept of פן ימות במלחמה, how the prospect that a soldier may lose his life in war prevents him from entering the battlefield from the outset. The Gaon notes that if it has already been decreed in Shamayim that this soldier will die during the particular time when the war is taking place, then that will occur, whether he would be fighting in the war at that time or if he had returned back home. The same question also applies throughout history to Tzaddikim who escaped from dangerous places rather than accepting that they would die only at their allotted time, regardless of the circumstances where they would be then.
The Gaon answers by introducing a concept of “Mazal Klalli,” “Communal” Mazal, as well as “Mazal Prati”, the Mazal of an individual. The Mazal of an entire populace and the Mazal of an individual among that populace are not mutually exclusive. If it has been decreed in Shamayim that a city or a nation at large should be killed, it applies to every individual among them, including those individuals who would not merit such a decree of their own personal accord. This concept is evident in the Pasuk (Mishlei 13:23) which states, יש נספה בלא משפט, “There are those who may perish without judgment,” referring to these types of people.
Based on this rule, it is understandable why there is a purpose for one to escape a precarious situation. Although the circumstances in that particular location might indicate that the Mazal Klali has been affected by a negative decree, that does not necessarily mean that each individual found there is deserving of that suffering on his own account; he could possibly fare better in a safer environment.
Interestingly, a very similar concept is also found in the context of Elul.
Rav Yecheskel Levenstein (Ohr Yecheskel, Sichos Elul, page 56), in his compilation of suggestions on how to be זוכה, deserving, of a positive judgment on Rosh Hashana, quotes the following. The Alter of Kelm asks how to reconcile the fact that one is supposed to have Bitachon that he will be זוכה בדין, while at the same time feel the fear and trepidation of the essence of the Yom Hadin. He answers that on a national scale, Klal Yisrael is assured to be זוכה בדין; however, this assurance does not apply to each Jew individually. Every individual is scrutinized on a personal scale as well. For that, he is left to his own merits; therefore, he is in great danger and has much to fear on Rosh Hashana.
He continues that for this reason, it is advisable for a person to make an effort to be a חלק מן הכלל, to associate with and be a member of the Klal at large, thereby linking himself to the communal assurance to be זוכה בדין. [Rav Levenstein notes that this concept is discussed clearly in the Midrash on the opening Pasuk of Parshas Nitzavim.]
The Yemei HaDin are unquestionably an עת צרה, time of distress. (See Shaarei Teshuva, Shaar Sheini, 14). As we understood from the Vilna Gaon, the purpose of fleeing a place experiencing an עת צרה is because the Klal has clearly been lost to a negative decree, and perhaps only this individual will merit better circumstances elsewhere. This pertains to a “typical” עת צרה, R”L.
However, the Yemei Din are different. They come with the guarantee that Klal Yisrael will be collectively זוכה בדין. Our job is to connect ourselves to that guarantee and take refuge in it. Instead of seeking safer surroundings and being left to rely on our own merits, we are assured that if we focus less on ourselves and more on joining the Klal, we will then be זוכה בדין on the Klal’s account. Our Avoda throughout Elul can be invigorated by the opportunity we have to face this עת צרה, not by fleeing, but by staying right where we are and forging a closer involvement with Klal Yisrael around us.


RABBI YITZCHAK ZEV JACOBS

ויצאו זקניך ושפטיך ומדדו אל הערים אשר סביבות החלל (כא:ב)

And your elders and judges shall go out and measure toward the cities
that are around the corpse (Devarim 21:2)

The Torah instructs Beis Din, within the framework of Eglah Arufah, in a distinct Mitzvah of Medidah, measurement. The Torah’s method of measuring has specific requirements discussed in the Gemara (Eruvin 58) which are also implemented in the measurement of Techumin, the distance one is allowed to walk out of his city on Shabbos. The measurement is taken from the corpse to the city and not vice versa. It must be done with a linen rope that is 50 Amos long. It even has its own Bracha!
One thorny aspect of this surveying procedure is encountering a hill or valley. Does Beis Din measure the angle of the slope (which is longer) or just the horizontal distance beneath it (which is shorter)? This is where Eglah Arufah measurement differs from the Techumin measurement. Regarding Techumin, Chazal prescribe five different methods of measuring the horizontal aspect of the slope, with different amounts of the vertical grayed out, depending on its steepness. This is in contrast to Eglah Arufah, where the actual distance is measured as is. The modern equivalent of this would be walking up the hill with a measuring wheel.
Seemingly, the logic behind this should be intuitive. The Torah’s intention when commanding the Mitzvah of Eglah Arufah is to atone for the city of the murderer. The Torah defines this suspect city as Karov and not Rov, i.e., the city closest to the corpse and not the one with the larger population (which has a statistically higher probability that the murderer originated there) (Bava Basra 23b). It would seem logical that this distance is judged as being the most likely path the murderer took from the city to the victim. That would preclude measuring the horizontal distance below the hill, as the murderer most likely did not use tunnel-boring equipment to make his way to his lethal goal. Since he had to actually traverse up and down the hill, they also measure the distance of the slope.
However, the Gemara gives a different reason for measuring the observed distance in Eglah Arufah: that it is D’Oraysa. This would imply that the intuitive reason provided above is not valid. Rather, the length of the slope is the “real” measurement and is therefore employed for D’Oraysa parameters (unlike Techumin), and not just the horizontal distance. Why does the intuitive reason not suffice?
Rav Chaim Kanievsky explains (Nachal Aison 5:6 §8) that the Torah does not play detective. Therefore, once the Torah establishes the appropriate method for determining the murderer’s host city, i.e., Karov, that method is used and other considerations as to his whereabouts are disregarded. This would be true regardless of whether the distance is measured through the slope or up the slope. This would still allow the Gemara to prove that Karov is the method of determination used here.

Two proofs he provides to this idea are:
• A river is included in regular horizontal measurement (Havla’ah) despite the fact that the murderer did not walk across it. It took more trouble to cross over it (swim/boat), yet Beis Din does not compensate for the extra time needed.
• A city without a Beis Din is not included in the measurement, despite the possibility that the murderer did indeed originate there.
This shows that although the Torah established the premise of Karov, we still do not get into more detailed follow-up calculations to account for other deviations from the standard set by the Torah.
Rav Kanievsky also offers another
reason, a keen insight into anthropology. Cities are population hubs concentrated around a central point. As one moves outward from
this center, the city’s population density decreases. However, people found in geographic proximity to
the city are more likely to
be the city’s inhabitants
than extraneous visitors.
That is to say, city residents
will typically be found in the suburbs physically closer to their home city – even with a mountain between them and the city center – rather than belonging to another city that is further away as the crow flies, but with less topographic discrepancy. The Rotzeach is assumed to have originated from these suburban areas. Thus, the distance between the corpse and the city could indeed have been measured horizontally, if not for this Halacha being D’Oraysa.