Monday, January 31, 2011

Shema shav as false report and useless report

Summary: Shema shav, according to Rashi. Does he get both interpretations from Onkelos?

Post: In parashat Mishpatim, Shemot 23:1:

1. You shall not accept a false report; do not place your hand with a wicked person to be a false witness.א. לֹא תִשָּׂא שֵׁמַע שָׁוְא אַל תָּשֶׁת יָדְךָ עִם רָשָׁע לִהְיֹת עֵד חָמָס:
 Do not accept a false report: in accord with its Targum, 'you should not accept a false report' -- a warning to one who accepts lashon hara, and to the judge, that he should not listen to the words of one litigant until his fellow litigant arrives.לא תשא שמע שוא: כתרגומו לא תקבל שמע דשקר, אזהרה למקבל לשון הרע, ולדיין, שלא ישמע דברי בעל דין עד שיבא בעל דין חבירו:
אל תשת ידך עם רשע: הטוען את חבירו תביעת שקר, שהבטיחהו להיות לו עד חמס:

We can see Onkelos here:

כג,א לֹא תִשָּׂא, שֵׁמַע שָׁוְא; אַל-תָּשֶׁת יָדְךָ עִם-רָשָׁע, לִהְיֹת עֵד חָמָס.
לָא תְּקַבֵּיל, שֵׁימַע דִּשְׁקַר; לָא תְּשַׁוֵּי יְדָךְ עִם חַיָּבָא, לְמִהְוֵי לֵיהּ סָהִיד שַׁקָּר.

And Rabbi Eliezer Levi Halperin, in his supercommentary on Rashi, makes a good point:

"It appears from the words of Rashi that in the words of Targum Onkelos it is possible to explain two things, that he should not accept lashon hara and that he should not hear, etc., for a litigant who puts forth his claim before the opposing party is present is not embarrassed of saying false words." 

Then, he cites someone else: "And it seems likely to me to say that Onkelos only intended that it was a warning to the judge not to hear the words of one litigant, etc., for this would lead to a false oath, and this is what Onkelos translated לָא תְּקַבֵּיל, שֵׁימַע דִּשְׁקַר. For if its explanation is also not to accept lashon hara, what difference is there if it is a false report or a true report, since it is lashon hara? But that which he translates לָא תְּקַבֵּיל works better with the warning of lashon harah than the warning to the judge. And this appears more correct in my eyes." End quote.

I would explain this Rashi in a different way. There are two ambiguities here. The first is the meaning of  תִשָּׂא and the second is the meaning of שָׁוְא. In terms of shav, we know that it means vanity, futility, etc. But when we compare the first and second recounting of the Aseres HaDibros, we see that this is one of the alternations, shav and sheker. In terms of tisa, this could either mean to lift up / offer such testimony, or to accept it.

This is why it is important, IMHO, to read other parallel meforshim to Rashi, to see where Rashi is making a decision in peshat. Here is Ibn Ezra on the phrase:
[כג, א]
לא תשא שמע שוא -
שלא יוציא מלבו דבר שוא, להוציא דבה.

וטעם: אל תשת ידך עם רשע 
להתחבר עמו בעדות שוא לעשות חמס לנקי, אולי העני יעשה זה למלאות חסרונו.

Thus, tisa means to raise up. It is to make up something false. This is then a good parallel and lead in to the end of the pasuk about not being a false witness.

In citing Onkelos, Rashi is resolving both matters. Sisa means accept, תְּקַבֵּיל. And shav means דִּשְׁקַר. I will differ with the supercommentor above and say that Rashi is certainly getting his first explanation from Onkelos. By lashon hara, Rashi means technically motzi shem ra. And yes, even true lashon hara one should not accept (in many circumstances), but that does not have to be the azhara in this particular pasuk. We could learn that out from a different pasuk.

In terms of the second interpretation, I don't think it is entirely in line with Onkelos. But in one aspect it is, that sisa means תְּקַבֵּיל, and against what we might otherwise say, like Ibn Ezra. Thus, the judge should not accept the story of one litigant where the other litigant is not present.

How does this get us to sheker in this second explanation? Perhaps something similar to what we saw above, that he will not hesitate to lie, and so we can label this, in prediction / anticipation, as likely sheker. Alternatively, in this second explanation, shav does NOT mean sheker but useless. If the other baal din is not present, then maybe we would say it is not a valid court case, and so this is just accepting an evil report about the actions of another for no reason. (Besides that it could predispose the judge towards this side.)

I am reminded of the indignant complaint, Tuvya chata v'zigud mangid?! On Pesachim 113b:
שלשה הקדוש ברוך הוא שונאן המדבר א' בפה ואחד בלב והיודע עדות בחבירו ואינו מעיד לו והרואה דבר ערוה בחבירו ומעיד בו יחידי כי הא דטוביה חטא ואתא זיגוד לחודיה ואסהיד ביה קמיה דרב פפא נגדיה לזיגוד א"ל טוביה חטא וזיגוד מינגד אמר ליה אין דכתיב (דברים יט, טו) לא יקום עד אחד באיש ואת לחודך אסהדת ביה שם רע בעלמא קא מפקת ביה
From Point by Point Summary:
(h) Hashem hates three people - one who speaks insincerely, one who knows testimony but does not testify, and a lone witness who testifies about immorality:
1. A case occurred, Tuvya sinned and Zigud testified about him in front of Rav Papa - Rav Papa lashed Zigud.
2. Zigud: Tuvya sinned - why did you lash me?
3. Rav Papa: It says "Lo Yakum Ed Echad b'Ish" - you testified alone (you are not believed -) the sole result of your testimony is to besmirch his reputation!
So maybe, similarly, we can connect these two explanations of Rashi in this manner.

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