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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ki Seitzei, Devarim 24:16. Punishment of the Son for the Father's Sin; וּבָנִים לֹא-יוּמְתוּ עַל-אָבוֹת

We all know about Zechus Avos.  Is there such a thing as Chov Avos?

The Gemara in Sanhedrin 27b (and Brachos 7a) asks, why does our passuk need to tell us that a son cannot be put to death for his father's sin, when we already were told "Ish b'cheto yumas," a man will die for his own sin?  The Gemara answers that our passuk is talking about court testimony- that close relatives cannot testify against each other.  But then the Gemara asks, is our inference that a son is not punished for a father's sin correct?  But it says ""Pokeid avon avos al banim," that Hashem remembers a father's sin upon his children!  The Gemara answers that "Pokeid" is only when the children embrace their father's sin.  This is why that passuk says pokeid...l'sone'oi, to those that hate me.  Then the Gemara asks, but in Vayikra it says וְכָשְׁלוּ אִישׁ-בְּאָחִיו, that a man will fall because of his brother's sin?  The Gemara answers that this is because he failed to protest and prevent the sin; his failure to protest makes him an enabler, and Hashem punishes for aiding and abetting sinful behavior.


Interestingly, the Gemara in Makkos 24a says that Yechezkel "nullified" Moshe Rabbinu's declaration.  Moshe said Pokeid avon avos al banim, and Yechezkel said
בֵּן-פָּרִיץ, שֹׁפֵךְ דָּם....כִּי גַם אֶל-הֶהָרִים אָכַל, וְאֶת-אֵשֶׁת רֵעֵהוּ טִמֵּא.  יב עָנִי וְאֶבְיוֹן, הוֹנָה--גְּזֵלוֹת גָּזָל, חֲבֹל לֹא יָשִׁיב; וְאֶל-הַגִּלּוּלִים נָשָׂא עֵינָיו, תּוֹעֵבָה עָשָׂה.....  יד וְהִנֵּה, הוֹלִיד בֵּן, וַיַּרְא, אֶת-כָּל-חַטֹּאת אָבִיו אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה; וַיִּרְאֶה, וְלֹא יַעֲשֶׂה כָּהֵן.  טו עַל-הֶהָרִים, לֹא אָכָל, וְעֵינָיו לֹא נָשָׂא, אֶל-גִּלּוּלֵי בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל; אֶת-אֵשֶׁת רֵעֵהוּ, לֹא טִמֵּא.  טז וְאִישׁ, לֹא הוֹנָה--חֲבֹל לֹא חָבָל, וּגְזֵלָה לֹא גָזָל; לַחְמוֹ לְרָעֵב נָתָן, וְעֵרוֹם כִּסָּה-בָגֶד.  יז מֵעָנִי הֵשִׁיב יָדוֹ, נֶשֶׁךְ וְתַרְבִּית לֹא לָקָח--מִשְׁפָּטַי עָשָׂה, בְּחֻקּוֹתַי הָלָךְ:  הוּא, לֹא יָמוּת בַּעֲו‍ֹן אָבִיו--חָיֹה יִחְיֶה.  יח אָבִיו כִּי-עָשַׁק עֹשֶׁק, גָּזַל גֵּזֶל אָח, וַאֲשֶׁר לֹא-טוֹב עָשָׂה, בְּתוֹךְ עַמָּיו; וְהִנֵּה-מֵת, בַּעֲו‍ֹנוֹ.  יט וַאֲמַרְתֶּם, מַדֻּעַ לֹא-נָשָׂא הַבֵּן בַּעֲו‍ֹן הָאָב; וְהַבֵּן מִשְׁפָּט וּצְדָקָה עָשָׂה, אֵת כָּל-חֻקּוֹתַי שָׁמַר וַיַּעֲשֶׂה אֹתָם--חָיֹה יִחְיֶה.  כ הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַחֹטֵאת, הִיא תָמוּת:  בֵּן לֹא-יִשָּׂא בַּעֲו‍ֹן הָאָב, וְאָב לֹא יִשָּׂא בַּעֲו‍ֹן הַבֵּן--צִדְקַת הַצַּדִּיק עָלָיו תִּהְיֶה, וְרִשְׁעַת רשע (הָרָשָׁע) עָלָיו תִּהְיֶה. 
which says that if a wicked man has a righteous son, the wicked father will be punished and the righteous son will live.  Whatever the Gemara means by saying that Yechezkel "nullified" Moshe's decree, there clearly is some tension between the two concepts.  The Maharsha takes the Gemara literally, that Yechezkel, as a navi, made a declaration that Hashem fulfilled, though it was contrary to the middas hadin expressed in the Torah.  The Aruch Laner cannot accept this, and says that Yechezkel only explained what Moshe Rabbeinu meant, that Moshe only was talking about a son that embraces his father's wickedness.  The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim I:44 can be seen as another way of reading the Gemara: the Rambam says that a wicked son is punished for the father's sins only in the case of a community that worshiped Avoda Zara, not individuals.  Yechezkel's peers eliminated the ancient inclination of Avoda Zara, and as a result, the central application of pokeid no longer applied.

So whether from the passuk in our parsha, or from Yechezkel's words, the bottom line is that a righteous son does not suffer from the sins of his father.

Indeed, the Gemara in Brachos 7 asks why some tzadikim suffer.  The Gemara suggests that they suffer because of their father's or grandfather's sins.  But the Gemara rejects this pshat, because of the conclusion of the Gemara in Sanhedrin we brought above.

There are exceptions to this rule, though.  The Gemara in Shevuos 39a says that when a person swears falsely, his family and the entire world suffer as a result, and the Gemara in Kiddushin 13a says the same about Arayos.

But considering the general rule, the question we have to answer is this: the children of Eli Hakohen sinned, and they were punished with the terrible curse that all their descendants would die young.  In fact, Abaya and Rava were among their descendants, and (Rosh Hashanna 18a) Rava lived to forty only because of his exceptional diligence in Torah, and Abaya lived to sixty because in addition to limud hatorah, he was also exceptionally involved in the mitzva of Tzedaka.   How can it be that these tzadikim were punished for their ancestor's sins?  How does the Gemara deal with this problem?  And what about the sin of the Egel Hazahav, which continues to plague us?  (I don't ask about the sin of Adam, because one cannot ask questions from a parsha that is beyond our understanding.).

Of course, you can just say like the Ibn Ezra and the Rashbam on the passuk here in Ki Seitzei.  They disregard the Gemara in Sanhedrin and Brachos and say that the rule of Lo Yumsu is only for earthly courts.  The heavenly court does punish children for their fathers' sins.  The Levush uses this approach to explain the bracha at the Bar Mitzva "Sheptarani mei'onsho shel zeh."  The father is relieved that now that his son is responsible for himself, the father's sins will no longer hurt his child.  But from the Gemaros we quoted above, this may be true for minor children, but not adult children, and we are constrained to take the Gemaros we have at face value and deal with the Gemara's approach, which leaves us perplexed.

The Chida in his Pesach Einayim in Sanhedrin has a nice escape hatch.  He says that the Gemara in Sanhedrin only applies to children that are born after the father sins.  But children that have not yet been born at the time the father sins certainly can be punished for their fathers' sins.

(And here's a gratuitous comment that will cause feminists to gnash their teeth.  We say a bracha at a Bar Mitzva "she'ptarani mei'onsho shel zeh."  The Levush says that the reason for the bracha is the father's relief that although minor children can be punished for their fathers' sins, adult children are independent.  The father is relieved that he will no longer hurt his son by his personal failings.  The Pri Megadim in OC 222:5, Eshel Avraham, says that only the father says this bracha, but the mother does not.  He explains that the rule of Pokeid avon avos, that the father's sin is visited on his innocent minor children, is only the father's sins, not the mother's. Perhaps this would not be so troublesome, but the next step definitely will be.  If Chov Avos is only that of the father, then would it not be concomitant that Zechus Avos is only that of the fathers, and not of the mothers?  To tell the truth, that bothers even me.)

Another problem is that idea of visiting the sins of the father on the children when they are ocheiz b'maasei avoseihen, when they embrace their father's evil behavior, seems inconsistent with the idea of tinok she'nishbeh.  A child that is raised unaware of mitzvos is considered an ahnus.  He is not liable for the sins he does because he had no way of knowing right from wrong.  Is this not applicable to a child that embraces his father's evil ways?  According to the Gemara in Sanhedrin, a sinful child of a righteous man is punished for his own sins, but a sinful child of a sinful man is punished not only for his own sins, but also for the sins of his father.  The opposite should be true!  The latter is an ahnus, while the former is a meizid gamur.  Why are we more severe on the ahnus than on the meizid?

It's interesting that the expression used for punishment is the same as that used for collecting debts- nifra mimenu.  You have to wonder whether the laws of inherited debt can shed any light on this discussion.

The basic rule is that personal debt is not heritable, but land that is encumbered by a lien remains encumbered in the hands of the heir.  If one designates movable property as collateral, then even in the hands of the heir the movable property will be subject to that lien.  This is the difference between shibud nechasim and shibud haguf.  Shibud nechasim, the encumbrance of property, runs with the land.  The shibud haguf, the personal liability, is specific to the original party.

(Even though no heir has any legal obligation to pay unsecured debts of the legator, a son has a mitzva of Kibbud Av to pay those debts, in order to remove the stigma of default, of the father's failure to pay his debt.)

Reb Chaim Volozhiner, in his introduction to his Ruach Chaim on Avos and there in perek 5 says that most of the time, what we call "punishment" is not sent by Hashem.  Punishment stems from two things: sometimes, it is the natural consequence of the flaw in the soul that was generated by the sin, and sometimes the sin itself causes suffering.

Perhaps we can say that the same applies here.  A flaw in a soul might be heritable.  The sin itself is not heritable.  The flaw in the soul runs with the soul.  The sin itself is exclusive to the sinner.  Only when the heir reinforces that ancestral sin does it take residence within him- it is machzeres ahl achsanya shelo.  The descendants of the sons of Eli suffered from the spiritual flaw engendered by their progenitor, and the consequence of that flaw was a truncated life.  Beyond that, an ancestor's sin that is repeated by a descendant becomes especially entrenched in his personna, and thereby causes even more trouble than usual.

Pursuant to a discussion in the comments, there is an interesting discussion in Shulchan Aruch along the same lines. 

The Rama in YD 334:6 says that a court may punish a person who has been placed in Nidui/Cherem by expelling his children from school and his wife from the shul until the person accepts the authority of the court.  His source is the Nimukei Yosef Bava Kama in Hagozeil Umaachil, 39b in the Rif pages, quoting Rav Paltui Gaon.  The Taz brings from the Yam Shel Shlomo that "Chalila to do such a thing!  The whole world stands on the Hevel Pihem shel Tinokos shel beis rabban!  And what right do we have to expel his wife?  If he sinned, what did she do wrong?"  The Taz says that the Gaon only was referring to minor children, and the Gaon neer would apply his rule to children above bar mitzva, or a spouse.  The Aruch Hashulchan says that the rule of the Gaon applies only where Beis Din sees that the additional pressure on the father will make him bend to the court to protect his family, but not as a punishment on the others per se. 

So, the bottom line is this; the consequences of your behavior are not limited to their effect on you.  What you do ripples through your descendants in a Lamarckian cascade.  Even if you've given up on yourself, remember that your failures hurt your children almost as much as they do you.

UPDATE:
I just saw that Reb Meir Simcha in this parsha, in 21:22, talks about the concept of avon avos al banim.  It goes without saying that it's kedai to see inside, but here's what I got with a weak OCR, so use  your imagination.

וכי יהיה באיש חטא משפט מות והומת ותלית אותו וכר. הפירוש דאיתא בספרי פ׳ שלר עונה בה לפי שנאמר פוקד עון אבות על בנים יכול אף בזה כן ת״ל עינה בה ולא בזרעה׳ פירו: כי הזרע אינו מתיחס אחריו לפי שנאמר הכרר תכרת׳ וגכרת החבל לגמרי׳ והוה כמו זרע הבא מ הגכרי׳ לכן נתמרקה עונו בו ולא בזרעו׳ משאינ בשאר עונות שזרעו מתייחס אחריו וברא מזכה
 אבא׳ לכן פוקד עוט של אב בשאוחזין מעשיה בידיהן. וזה שאמר וכי יהיה באיש חטא משפט מות פי׳ שלא יהיה החטא רק באיש לא בזרעו׳ וזה חטי של מגדף ועעיז שבהן כתיב עונה בה לא בזרעה בזה ותלית אותו על עץ׳ אבל בשאר החטאים לא והיא כתכמיס דאיגן גתלין רק מגדף ועעיז. ולדעת ר אליע׳ר פירושו וכי יהיה באיש חטא מימ׳ דייקי' באיש צריך להיות החטא שעליו נשפט למות׳ אבל תטא שלא נשפט עליו למות רק כדי שלא יעשה כמו הרודף אתרי נערה המארוסה שאין תטא בו רק שלא יחטא בזה אינו נתלה׳ ודיקא באיש הא בן שהוא סורר ומורה שגהרג ע״ש סופו שאס רצה, אביו לחחיל מוחל ובכ״ז הוא נתלה. עיין סנהדר׳ מ'ה מ'ו ודוק.

5 comments:

Chaim B. said...

First of all, nice to see you back posting.

>>>How can it be that these tzadikim were punished for their ancestor's sins?

It's not an onesh, it's a metziyus. Your question is like asking why someone with an inherited genetic disease is punished for the sins of his parents.

>>>Is this not applicable to a child that embraces his father's evil ways?

The kid is exposed to other influences as well, from which he can and should learn. The poskim discuss how far to take tinok she'nishba. If a guy grows up surrounded by shules and yeshivos, just because he father is an avaryan does not give him an automatic out.

Barzilai said...

Thank you.

Yes, the idea of the son of a Kohen being a chalal or the child of chayvei krisos being a mamzer was brought up. But I think there's a difference between a metziyus and onshim.

You're right about tinok shenishba. My taina is that even if it's not a petur when the child sees alternatives, it's not a reason to be machmir on him! The unfortunate circumstances of his youth should argue for forbearance, not a doubled penalty.

Eli said...

[not related to your main discussion, but an earlier source for the Ibn Ezra and Rashbam is Melachim 2,14,6 and a parallel in DH 2,25,4. Interestingly, this is not brought up in the relevant Sugya]

Chaim B. said...

Ksav v'Kabbalah discusses those sources in the context of the pasuk.

Barzilai said...

Hello, Eli, and Mazal Tov to you!

I have Rabbi Shimon Krasner, the author of the Nachlas Shimon on Tanach, staying with me now. Many of the marei mekomos were from his sefer. In a different piece, he discusses the passuk in Melachim 2 (in Nachlas Shimon Melachim II volume 2, number 22. He focuses there on whether a king can punish the children of a mored bemalchus. Among the interesting things he brings is a letter from the Chasam Sofer to the Maharitz Chiyus in Teshuvos Chasam Sofer OC 208, arguing whether a king may do so. Also, he brings a highly relevant Rama, which I'm putting into the post itself, because it's so interesting.