Tetzave 5777


In the Haftarah of Parshas Zachor, the Navi Shmuel recounts Shaul Hamelech’s war with Amalek. The Pasuk (Shmuel Aleph 15:5) says, וירב בנחל, “He argued by the wadi (riverbed).” Chazal explain that this means that Shaul was grappling with a Halacha associated with a נחל, which refers to the law of עגלה ערופה. When a murdered corpse is found and its murderer is unknown, the Beis Din of the nearest city must behead a calf in a נחל and proclaim that they did not have a hand in the killing of this person. Shaul reasoned, “If the Torah takes the killing of even one person so seriously, how can I possibly kill out an entire nation (i.e., Amalek)?” In response, a Heavenly voice called out, אל תהי צדיק הרבה, “Do not be overly righteous.”
Shaul’s reasoning seems puzzling, for the Halacha of עגלה ערופה applies only when an innocent man was found dead. How could Shaul have compared that to the requirement to wipe out the wicked nation of Amalek? Also, the Heavenly response seems strange. To refrain from killing Amalek – and certainly to allow its king (Agag) to remain alive, as Shaul did – is a direct transgression of a positive commandment (Devarim 25:19). How, then, can this be termed by Heaven as being “overly righteous”? On the contrary – it is a violation of Hashem’s will! Furthermore, why indeed did Shaul allow Agag to live?
Chazal list many examples of people who made mistakes based on things they saw with רוח הקודש, divine inspiration. This is because things seen with רוח הקודש can be unclear and leave room for error, whereas true prophecy allows no possibility of doubt. Some examples of such mistakes include those of Korach and Shmuel Hanavi.
Korach was certain of his victory against Moshe Rabbeinu, because he saw with רוח הקודש that his grandchildren would be serving as Levi’im in the Beis Hamikdash. While his vision was technically correct, he failed to realize that he would not be the patriarch of the Levite family. Rather, his sons would repent and their sons would serve in the Beis Hamikdash.
Similarly, when Shmuel Hanavi went to anoint the new king, he was shown a prophecy that the king would be a son of Yishai. However, Hashem did not tell him which son was the chosen one. Shmuel incorrectly assumed Eliav was to be king, because he foresaw kings coming from Eliav. Although Shmuel was correct in his vision and indeed royalty would be found among Eliav’s descendants (his granddaughter married Rechavam, the son of Shlomo), Shmuel was mistaken and Eliav himself was not the son destined for the throne.
The sefer נחלי דבש explains that Shaul saw with his רוח הקודש that great things would come as a result of Amalek. Haman would effect a wave of Teshuva the likes of which the admonishments of all the prophets could not make. Chazal (Megilla 14a) point out that Achashverosh’s giving his ring to Haman did more than all of the prophets’ rebukes.
The Mitzvah of עגלה ערופה is performed with a calf that did not have offspring and in a riverbed in which things cannot grow, signifying the tragedy of a person killed without being able to fulfill his potential.
Shaul was torn. On the one hand, he had a commandment to annihilate Amalek. Yet on the other hand, he saw the potential that could come from them. They could start an entire Teshuva movement and help the Jews re-accept the Torah in an infinitely more meaningful way! Learning from עגלה ערופה, he left Agag alive so that Amalek could fulfill its potential. The Heavenly voice called out, “Don’t be overly righteous!” This is an instruction to not take other things into account when there is an explicit command to fulfill a Mitzvah!
With this perspective, Shmuel’s subsequent admonishment to Shaul makes sense. Shmuel says כי חטאת קסם מרי (א שמואל טו:כג), “The transgression of divining is rebellion!” (Shmuel Aleph 15:23). Shaul’s sin was that of divining, of looking into the future to decide his actions, and that, says the Navi, is tantamount to rebellion.


When it comes to women’s obligation in Mitzvos, there is a general rule:מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא נשים פטורות, women are exempt from positive time-bound Mitzvos. This applies to both Biblical and Rabbinic Mitzvos (see Tosafos Pesachim 108b).
There are, however, three instances where women are obligated, שאף הם היו באותו הנס, for they too were involved in that miracle. These are Ner Chanukah (Shabbos 23a), hearing Megillas Esther (Megilla 4a), and the “Four Cups” of Pesach (Pesachim 108a).
Regarding Purim, Rashi explains that Haman’s decree to kill Jews included women, and they, too, were saved by the miracle.
Rashbam (Pesachim 108b) explains that the miracle was performed through them, as the Purim miracle occurred through Esther. So, too, states the Rashbam, the redemption from Mitzrayim was brought about due to the righteous women (Sotah 11b).
Sfas Emes questions why the Rashbam did not simply present Rashi’s obvious explanation, that all were saved. He answers that many commentators maintain that the women were not enslaved in Mitzrayim and therefore were not “saved” by the miracle, and would therefore not be obligated. It is only due to their being the catalyst for the miracle that also obligates them.
Other Rishonim feel that even if women were not enslaved, they were still included in the redemption from Mitzrayim and were also saved when Pharaoh chased after all of Bnei Yisrael as they were leaving Mitzrayim, giving them the status of הם היו באותו הנס.
In the three places where this rule is applied, it obligates women in a Mitzvah D’rabbanon. The Beis Yosef, however, seemingly extends this to a Mitzvah Min HaTorah. The Tur (472:14) rules that both men and women are obligated in the “Four Cups” and all Mitzvos of Pesach evening, such as Matzah and Maror. Beis Yosef explains that once women are obligated in the “Four Cups” due to הם היו באותו נס, they are also obligated in all the other Mitzvos of the night. The Gra echoes this statement. Thus, women must fulfill the Biblical Mitzvah of Matzah due to הם היו באתו נס.
This is actually a discussion in Tosafos (Megillah 4a). Tosafos quotes the Gemara (Pesachim 43b) that women are obligated in the eating of Matzah, due to the rule that whoever is subject to the prohibition of not eating Chometz is subject to the commandment of eating Matzah. Since women are subject to the prohibition, they are also subject to the commandment. Why, asks Tosafos, do we need this reason, when they should be obligated by הם היו באותו נס? Tosafos answers that אף הם would only obligate them on a Rabbinic level, whereas the comparison to Chometz would obligate them Biblically. Similarly, Tosafos (Pesachim 108b) points out that אף הם could not be used to obligate women in the Mitzvah of Succah, which is Min HaTorah.
To sum up, in the opinion of Tosafos, women are obligated in Matzah due to the comparison to Chometz. This would not necessarily obligate them in the Rabbinic Mitzvah of “Four Cups”, so the rule of אף הם is needed to obligate them.
Igros Moshe finds a source for an opinion that would obligate women in “Four Cups” just as they are obligated in Matzah, even without אף הם. All Poskim agree that the “Four Cups” are of Rabbinic origin; the point of contention is whether the women’s obligation of Chometz and Matzah includes all Mitzvos of Pesach, or if it is necessary to have an independent reason of אף הם to obligate them in the “Four Cups”.
Returning to the original Beis Yosef. Rav Moshe points out that the Beis Yosef is clearly applying אף הם to obligate women in Matzah and Maror, even though Matzah is Min HaTorah. This is unlike Tosafos, who felt that אף הם can never obligate one on a Biblical level.
How would these rules apply to reading the Haggada? If a man is unable to say the Haggada, can his wife be Motzei him through his listening to her recital? The man’s obligation, writes Rav Moshe, is Biblical. For the women, if her obligation in Matzah includes all Mitzvos of the night, she would also have a Biblical obligation, thereby enabling her to be Motzei her husband. If, however, her obligation stems from אף הם, it might only be a Rabbinic obligation, rendering her invalid to be Motzei one with a Biblical obligation. Rav Moshe’s final Psak is that she can be Motzei her husband. (See also Dirshu Mishna Berurah 472:49 for other opinions.)