Sunday, August 7, 2016

Ki Seitzei: Irony

Chazal tell us that an object that kills a man must be buried. It should be buried near its victim, but the essential point is that the item must be buried. 
For example, Sanhedrin 45b
אחת אבן שנסקל בה ואחת עץ שנתלה עליו ואחד סייף שנהרג בו ואחד סודר שנחנק בו כולן נקברין עמו 

(Regarding individuals executed by the Sanhedrin.) "All - the boulder with which he was stoned, the gallows on which he was hanged, the sword with which he was killed, the strip of cloth with which he was choked - all of them are to be buried with him."
כולם נקברים עמו - מקבור תקברנו יתירא נפקא לן לקמן בפירקא (דף מו:):
(It's not as clear on 46b, so I brought it from 45b.

Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, in the Teshuvos in back of his sefer on Bamidbar, talks about a person who purchased a gun that had been used to kill a Jew, and the question was whether it must be buried.  He says that the halacha we are discussing here would apply only to the bullet, but not to the gun, and therefore the gun does not have to be buried.

(I haven't gone through the sugya recently, but I don't understand why, if this is true, the Gemara would say that the gallows require kevura, since it was not the instrument of his death.  The court never executes anyone on the gallows.  Only after the person was executed by other means was his body hanged for a moment.  Evidently, it's enough that the gallows was part of his death sentence, even if not used to cause his death; if the gallows has to be buried, how much more so should a gun be buried!)

But that is not the focus of this post.  What I found interesting was the contrast between Rav Zilberstein's psak and something I saw on Quora.  Quora is a website where people pose questions, others propose answers, and the answers are ranked by popular vote- what they call up-votes.

The question posed was

The most "up-voted" answer, with seventy two thousand views, was offered by one Samuel Lim.
Oh boy, Ive been waiting for this one. I have a weapon with a not so illustrious history of service. The one-and-only...

Number 19074 Model 10 Browning FN

Images courtesy of: Browning FN Model 1910: The first shots of WWI

I can't even begin to do you justice by describing the kill count of this little peashooter, but suffice it to say that it is responsible for EVERY MILITARY CASUALTY OF THE 20th CENTURY PAST 1914.
Yup. A bit sensationalist of me? No, this was the firearm that Gavrilo Princip used to gun down the Austrian Archduke, starting the chain of events that culminated not only in the Great War, but also the Second World War. Who knows how the 20th century would have played out if this gun had jammed? We will never know.

So on the one hand you have Harav Zilberstein, saying that the din that the instrument of a man's death must be buried is limited to the bullet, and does not apply to the gun. On the other hand, you have Mr. Lim's observation that the weapon responsible for more deaths than any other weapon was this pistol. It's sort of ironic, in that the lamdan focuses on the naked physical fact, while Mr. Lim sees a deeper truth. How do you like that illustration of the difference between people-logic and Halacha-logic.

I am not, chalila, criticizing R Zilberstein's psak. We define "cause" contextually. In Bava Kamma, this point is hammered in countless times in the sugyos of Gramma and Garmin and the difference between liability in a court here on Earth and liability in a Heavenly court. Another example- when the daughters of Yisro told their father that Ish Mitzri, an Egyptian man, saved us from the other shepherds, it has been said that this was true. Moshe was not an Egyptian, but he was on the run from the Egyptian police for having killed the Egyptian man who attacked a Jew, so ultimately, it was the Egyptian that set in motion the chain of events that brought Moshe to Yisro.  But perhaps Mr. Lim's response should help us to realize that even if the din of  קבור תקברנו technically does not apply to a gun, the horrors it set in motion make it so repugnant as to be unworthy of continued existence.

If this were to be on a Parsha, it belongs in Ki Seitzei, Devarim 21:23, on  כי קבר תקברנו.

Here's the relevant part of Rav Zilberstein's teshuva.
תשובה קנ"ז

נאמר בקול מבשר ח"א סי' ﬠ"ח שחבל תליה שהנאצים ימש"ו תלו עליו יהודים קדושים הי"ד, אסור בהנאה וחייב קבורה ןזאת ﬠפ"י השאילת יﬠב"ץ ח"ב סימן קנ"ח שכתב לענין השאלה שהביא בלה"פ ליו"ד סי" ח' שאיש אחד קנה סייף מאת התליין הממונה להרוג מחויבי מיתה וﬠשה ממנו סכין של שחיטה. וכתב היּﬠב"ץ שיש לחוש בזה משום איסורי הנאה שכך בהרוגי בי"ד שנו חכמים סייף שנהרג בו נקבר ﬠמן ביחוד אם דן בו ישראל ואﬠ"ג דשלא כדין הרגו פשיטא דיש לחוש. ﬠ"כ.
ובע"ז ס"ב: כתב רשי'י בד"'ה כולם נקברין ﬠמו דהע והאבן והסייף והסודר אסורים בהנאה וזאת כוונת היﬠב"ץ. ואף שהלכה זו נאמרה בהרוגי בי"ד מ"מ כיון שמפורש בסנהדרין מ"ו: ולא זו בלבד אמרו אלא כל המלין מתו ﬠובר בלא תעשה ובגמ' שם דריש ליה מרבוי דלאו דוקא בהרוגי בי"ד אלא גם כל שאר מתים יש בהם מ"ע ול"ת דלא תלין יﬠוי"ש
ובנוגע לאקדח, לא הוא הורג כי אם הכדור שיש בו אבק שריפה והברזל הוא ההורג והאקדח רק מצית את האבק, ודופק עליו, ומפﬠילו, אבל הוא ﬠצמו אינו משמש כלי מות, ולכן אין חיוב לקוברו

There's also a line attributed to Reb Yehuda HaChasid to this effect-
סכין או חרב שנהרג בו יהודי אסור ליהנות ממנו כי סכנה גדולה הוא לכל בני ביתו ולכל אשר יהנו ממנו, אך יקברוהו עם הנהרג.

And finally, it is important to know that although Rashi says this is a drasha, the Rambam (15 Sanhedrin 9) says that this halacha of burying the gallows is only to prevent his memory from being shamed.  It is a chesed for the man that was killed, not a drasha from a passuk.  If so, the rule only applies where keeping the object might result in disgrace for the person who was killed with it. Obviously, the Yaavetz held like Rashi.


  1. As a fan of the 2nd amendment I wold like to use this opportunity to say
    "Guns dont kill people, People kill people"

  2. Any sources discuss someone killed with a bow and arrow, and whether the bow has to be buried? That seems to me the most analogous situation to a gun and bullet.

    1. No, none that I know of. The first one to apply the Gemara to practical halacha was the Yaavetz re the sword/chalef, and since then there hasn't been much at all. But as to your implicit point, that the usual rule that (literal) "Giri dilei" is indistinguishable from "gufo" does not seem to apply here, I agree. It's difficult to understand.