Rav Avigdor Miller on the Parsha

Character-traits deserve great reward, because they foster righteous intentions which would have been carried out had the circumstances permitted.

HaRav Avigdor Miller zts"l

Judaism HaRav Avigdor Miller zts"l
HaRav Avigdor Miller zts"l
INN:Toras Avigdor

(Sent by Rabbi Arye Zev Narrow)

And you shall do to him as he had intended to do to his brother. 19:19

Here we learn the gravity of wrong intentions, even when the intentions were frustrated and not carried out. Thus we can understand that wrong character-traits are even more serious than actual sins (Rambam, Teshuvah 7:3) for actual sins can happen only occasionally, but wrong intentions are constantly functioning.

Even though the opportunity did not present itself, yet the desire for evil-doing is considered as actual sins and Hashem "shall do to him as he had intended to do" to others. Wrong character-traits foster wrong intentions constantly, and these evil intentions would be achieved if not for the restraining circumstances, such as fear of reprisal.

Then certainly do virtuous character-traits deserve great reward, because they foster righteous intentions which would have been carried out had the circumstances permitted. Hashem "shall do to him as he had intended to do" to others.

There is a hint of a novelty of a tradition handed down from Sinai (Rambam, Edos 20:2) in that the falsified witnesses receive the death penalty only when their innocent victim had been sentenced; but if he already had been put to death because of their testimony, they are not to be killed by the law that "you should do to him as he had intended to do to his brother.” You shall do to him as he had intended to do, but not as he actually did" (Makos 5B). This exceptionally remarkable law is to be understood as follows.

As previously declared, this law is intended to emphasize the guilt for wrong intentions, which are motivated by wrong character-traits. This severe punishment for mere intentions might invite leniency and false compassion, and therefore the Torah emphasizes "Your eye shall have no pity." (19:21) Even when the wicked witnesses were shown (after the death of the innocent man) to have spoken falsely, they do not deserve to be killed for mere false words. And therefore, they are not killed.

But if the innocent man was not executed, but merely condemned to death, Hashem makes an exception and commands that the false witnesses be killed. Now the public might say: Why kill them? The falsely accused man is alive and well? But Hashem says: Do not pity them! They must die in order to demonstrate the guilt of evil intentions. But if the innocent man was killed, the lesson of the guilt of mere intentions would not be emphasized.





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