Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Va'eira, Shemos 9:20. Iyov's Silence

I don't want your money.  But like other websites, I am soliciting contributions from you.  This far-from-perfect ma'amar is being posted in the hopes that someone can contribute something to the discussion.  I do, however, want to stress that while I can't offer a black and white explanation, I think that ambiguity and Tzarich Iyun is incomparably better than half-baked mussar that is not oisgehalten in halacha, hashkafa, or reality.

The Egyptians were warned that the plague of Barad was coming, and those that feared Hashem's power brought their livestock in from the fields.  Shemos 9:20- 
הירא את דבר ה' מעבדי פרעה הניס את עבדיו ואת מקנהו אל הבתים.

Targum Yonasan says that the ירא את-דבר יהוה, the ones fearful of Hashem, is a reference to Iyov, Job, who is described in the first passuk in Iyov (איש היה בארץ עוץ איוב שמו והיה האיש ההוא תם וישר וירא אלקים וסר מרע) as a ירא ה. as a  
 אִיוֹב דַהֲוָה דָחִיל מִפִּתְגָמָא דַיְיָ מֵעַבְדוֹי דְפַרְעה כְּנַש יַת עַבְדוֹי וְיַת גֵיתוֹי לְגוֹ בֵיתָא

It's interesting that Iyov makes an appearance in the story of Klal Yisrael's sojourn in Egypt.  But this is not the first time he appears.  

When Pharaoh first discussed the Jewish problem with his advisers, the Gemara (Sotah 11a) says that these advisors were individuals we are familiar with: they were Bilaam, Iyov, and Yisro.  

א"ר חייא בר אבא א"ר סימאי שלשה היו באותה עצה בלעם ואיוב ויתרו בלעם שיעץ נהרג איוב ששתק נידון ביסורין יתרו שברח זכו מבני בניו שישבו בלשכת הגזית 

Bilaam advised subjugating the Jews, and he was later killed.  Iyov was silent, and he suffered terrible afflictions, the subject of Sefer Iyov.  Yisro refused to participate in this ur-Wannsee conference, and he fled, and because of that he was rewarded with descendants who sat in the Sanhedrin.

What, exactly, was Iyov's sin?  He stood by and did not stop a רודף.  Was this a sin of omission or a sin of commission?  Did his silence do nothing, and he was punished for not making an attempt to fight the decision, or did his silence encourage and contribute to the enactment?

In other words, did he have a duty to actively oppose it, and he was punished for failing to do his duty?  Or, or was he punished because his silence was interpreted as assent, or at least as indifference, and his indifference/assent factored into the decision to crush the Jews?

The reason I ask is because if Iyov was a yarei shamayim and a decent man, it's hard to believe that he would have allowed his silence to contribute to suffering.  (The Ben Yehoyada in Sanhedrin does say that Iyov's silence contributed to the enactment)  If, on the other hand, it was just a a matter of not caring, it's still surprising, but I can conceive of the possibility:  A Yarei Shamayim would not have participated, but a Yarei Shamayim might have been indifferent.  They weren't his people.  Every day injustices take place in the world, and we simply don't pay attention.  We could go out and protest.  We could march in the street and yell about the suffering in Tibet or Africa or India.  But we don't.  We have our own people to worry about, and we can't fix the whole world.  The reality is that in life, there are disasters, and we don't lose a moment of sleep over the suffering of strangers on the other side of the world.  So what was the complaint against Iyov?  Why should he have endangered himself on behalf of the Jews?

The Torah gives us certain mitzvos that mandate that we not stand by and watch the perpetration of injustice.  These are the Mitzvos of:
הוכח תוכיח
השבת אבידה
לא תעמד על דם רעך
On the basis of these mitzvos, we have a duty to stand up and fight a danger to a fellow:  as the Rambam says (1 Rotzei'ach 14)
כל היכול להציל ולא הציל עובר על לא תעמוד על דם רעך. וכן הרואה את חבירו טובע בים. או ליסטים באים עליו. או חיה רעה באה עליו. ויכול להצילו הוא בעצמו. או ששכר אחרים להצילו ולא הציל. או ששמע עובדי כוכבים או מוסרים מחשבים עליו רעה או טומנין לו פח ולא גלה אוזן חבירו והודיעו. או שידע בעובד כוכבים או באונס שהוא בא על חבירו ויכול לפייסו בגלל חבירו להסיר מה שבלבו ולא פייסו וכל כיוצא בדברים אלו. העושה אותם עובר על לא תעמוד על דם רעך:

So we have the Gemara (Shabbos 54b) that says

כל מי שאפשר למחות לאנשי ביתו ולא מיחה נתפס על אנשי ביתו באנשי עירו נתפס על אנשי עירו בכל העולם כולו נתפס על כל העולם כולו אמר רב פפא והני דבי ריש גלותא נתפסו על כולי עלמא כי הא דאמר רבי חנינא מאי דכתיב (ישעיהו ג) ה' במשפט יבא עם זקני עמו ושריו אם שרים חטאו זקנים מה חטאו אלא אימא על זקנים שלא מיחו בשרים

that failure to protest where you can make a difference makes you liable for what follows.

Similarly, we find that Aharon was punished for his silence, in Bamidbar 12:1, where the Shach al Hatorah says
ותדבר מרים ואהרן במשה. היל"ל וידברו מרים  ואהרן, אבל אמר ותדבר מרים, כי עיקר  הדבור היה למרים,כי הנשים הם דברניות, ואהרן  הודה לה או החריש ולא מיחה בה, וע״ז נענש הוא ג״כ שנא׳ ויחר אף ה׳ בם .

But let's assume that our din of לא תעמד על דם רעך, our chiyuv to stand up and protest, stems from our din of ערבות, as the Shla'h says (חלק ג, תורה שבכתב, תורת כהנים, פרק דרך חיים תוכחת מוסר, פרשת קדושים, where he says that kal vachomer the chiyuv applies to preventing a man from destroying his neshama by doing aveiros, also in Minchas Chinuch 239:4.)  If so, it's reasonable to assume that the yesod of הוכח תוכיח and השבת אבידה is also the din of ערבות.  Since when did Iyov have a din Arvus with the Jews?  

So I think we are forced to look at this Chazal and say that despite the fact that he had none of the mitzvos listed above and no din of Arvus, there is a duty to oppose injustice, and it was a sin to fail to stand up.  Maybe it's not a din in Beis Din, but there is some kind of fundamental meta-mitzva obligation.   

But what is the extent of this obligation?  From the fact that Yisro ran away, it appears there was danger in opposing the decision.  If there was danger in protesting, what was Iyov's duty?  We, that we have a halacha of (Vayikra 19:16)  לא תעמד על דם רעך, and most likely (See Choshen Mishpat 426 and thousands of Rishonim and Achronim) we're allowed to endanger ourselves to save others, but we're not obligated to endanger ourselves in order to save another person.  So what was wrong with Iyov's silence, if speaking up would have been dangerous?  Let's assume, then, that there was no danger to Iyov.  Why did Yisro run away?  I don't know.  Maybe that was after the majority decided. Or it was a middas chasidus.  But it's most likely there was no danger to Iyov, and he was punished for failing to protest.  To me, it is clear that Iyov suffered for his indifference, for his failure to at least cry out against the injustice, even if he couldn't do anything about it, as the Brisker Rov said.

Here are some suggestions.
1.  It could be that for the average man, there is no din of Arvus outside of what the Torah is mechayeiv.  But when a person is in a position of power, when he is on a consortium of consultants to the government, then he has obligations greater than the man in the street.  You are taking upon yourself responsibilities, and you can't then ignore them.  For a man in that position, silence is a breach of duty.

2.  The Jews were known as rachmanim, bayshanim, and gomlei chasadim, they were a people with a unique bond to the Ribono shel Olam.  Even if indifference to suffering is not a reason for punishment, indifference to the suffering of the Jews is a sign that you don't care about the Ribono shel Olam.  If you have any bond to the Ribono shel Olam, you love the Jews.  So his indifference was a siman- a symptom of a fundamental flaw in your spiritual relationship with the Ribono shel Olam.  As the Sh'lah says, ואמר לא תעמוד שלא יתעכב כיון שהוא רעך בתורה ובמצוות אי נמי לשון שתיקה דמך תחת דמו ונפשך תחת נפשו אם תעמוד על דם רעך.  It's possible that before Mattan Torah, every Tzadik was a ריע with everyone who did mitzvos.  Since Iyov was a tzadik, he was a ריע with the Bnei Yisrael, and the mitzva did apply to him.

3.  The punishment for Iyov's indifference was Hashem's indifference.  The Satan wanted to torture Iyov, and Middah keneged middah, Hashem said nothing, He simply did not interfere. 

4.  That all of our proofs from the mitzvos in the Torah, that it's only based on the din Arvus, הוכח תוכיח השבת אבידה and לא תעמד, and we don't find any such dinim by Bnei Noach, are just wrong.  It's not the dinim that mandates this behavior, it is essential humanity.  Whatever danger there was to Iyov did not justify his silence.  If you see an innocent human being suffering, you should cry out in protest.  If you don't, you're no better than Iyov.   


  1. While the obligatory and general לא תעמוד applies only to רעך, one should not be indifferent to suffering of other creatures, ק"ו מצער בע"ח. This we see from Avraham, who davened for אנשי סדום, which even by the קודם מ"ת standards were not רעך, and from the מעשי ידי טובעים בים etc. In fact, this is clearly stated at the end of Yona. This view is culminated in a quote attributed to R. Manashe of Ilya - "כל זמן שישנה עוד תולעת אחת סגורה בתוך נקיק סלע, והיא לחוצה ודחוקה ומתפתלת להמשיך בדרכה ואינה יכולה, אי אפשר למי שהוא לחיות חיי נחת ולראות בטובה" and see his אלפי מנשה here -

    Of course, for most people focus should be closer circles (often caring for the far-away goes at the expense of one's closer ones), but that is just a matter of precedence. Exceptional people are expected to have a broader view. So, in short, I think your first and fourth points are the message here. Iyov was יר"ש and this is the only reason he is criticized for not showing enough empathy for the suffering of בנ"י.

    In terms of endangering oneself in order to save another person, לפלפולא בעלמא, one may argue that בן-נח who has no וחי בהם but also no לא תעמוד, is allowed to endanger himself to save others even in situations where ישראל is not. More seriously, we see from Chazal that running away was both possible and preferable, so he could have ran away too, although it was not clear to me what would that achieve. So either we assume that if all three consultants would object it would be more difficult for פרעה to go along with his plan, or maybe Chazal want to tell us that one should protest even if it won't help.

  2. That's the first time I saw a quote from Reb Menashe Illyer, and it's beautiful, though I don't think the Rambam would have been impressed with the thought.

    I realize that of course you're right, thinking back to the story with אמרי הואיל ולא קא מרחם ליתו עליה יסורין in BM 85a. Apparently we expect more from exceptional people.

  3. Ouch, I just read Reb Chaim Oizer's haskama on the sefer

    I used to think that the trouble he got into was a sign that he was outside of the mainstream of yeshivishe hashkafa. Now that I see Reb CO's haskama, I'm ashamed of myself. Sounds like the Ramchal's kind of trouble.

  4. Well, his opinions on many things are certainly not mainstream ("yeshivishe hashkafa" is an anachronism in that respect), but as hard to believe as it might be, there were times at which one could have his own opinions, mainstream or not, and still be considered Adam Gadol.