SALT - Motzaei Shabbat, April 24, 2021

  • Rav David Silverberg
This week's SALT shiurim are dedicated in memory of
David Moshe ben Harav Yehuda Leib Silverberg z"l,
whose yahrzeit is Friday 18 Iyar, April 30
            The final verses of Parashat Emor discuss a number of laws relevant to murder and damage, including the rule that “makeh nefesh beheima yeshalemena” (24:18) – one who kills an animal must pay the owner for his loss.  The Gemara in Masekhet Bava Kama (10b) cites an opinion that the word “yeshalemena” (“shall pay for it”) in this verse should actually be read as “yashlimena” – “shall supplement it.”  According to this reading, the Torah here alludes to the amount required for compensation, stipulating that the responsible party must pay the animal’s owner the difference between the animal’s value before it was killed, and the value of its carcass.  Rather than requiring the guilty party to pay the full value of the animal, the Torah requires him to “supplement” the owner’s loss.  The owner sells the carcass and then receives compensation for the value lost as a result of the animal’s death.
            A chassidic reading of this verse is suggested by Rav Uri (“the Saraf”) of Strelisk, in Imrei Kadosh.  He writes that the phrase, “makeh nefesh beheima,” which literally means, “he who strikes the soul of an animal,” may be taken as an allusion to one who sets out to eliminate the “beastly” spirit of his fellow, a negative character trait, in a sincere attempt to correct another person’s behavior.  When we observe people around us acting wrongly, we naturally want to “strike” the “nefesh beheima,” the spiritual ill that causes the misconduct.  Rav Uri of Strelisk writes that if one seeks to achieve this through harsh criticism, this can be done only if “yeshalemena,” if he can then “replenish” the individual’s spirits and self-confidence.  “Striking” one’s fellow in an attempt to correct wrongful conduct is not legitimate if one is not capable of compensating for the emotional harm inflicted through criticism.  Even when we feel justified in “striking” another person by criticizing wrongful behavior, we must first pause and determine whether and how we will then rebuild the self-esteem and emotional strength that is likely to suffer from our words of criticism.