By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Kesubos 32 – Not Too Much
It’s a long back and forth, this discussion of whether in general the guy gets the monetary penalty or malkos when they coincide. But the yesod of the whole sugyah is one, as the Gemara says in the opening of the discussion: v’kaymah lan d’eino lokeh u’meshaleim. It’s either one or the other, malkos or paying money. But not both. That we learn out from the pasuk that says k’dei rishaso. For one angle of evil you penalize him, but not for both.
Left to our own devices, we may not have intuited such a lenient stance. So what if it was in one act? If he did something that violates an aveirah punishable by malkos while at the same time incurring a fee of damages, why not let him take the hit? What would be so terrible if he gets both consequences?
Now, you may be inclined to shrug off the question by saying, “Ok, so it’s a gezeiras ha’kasuv. End of story.”
Don’t forget, though, that Chazal tell us that dinim are amongst those laws of the Torah that the rational mind understands. It makes sense to us. Even were the Torah not to have been given, intuitive reasoning would mandate having such a system. Every single aspect, down to the finest detail, I’m not sure if that is what Chazal meant. Or if they meant that the rational power of logic would have obligated the same concept, in terms of the general structure.
Either way, it doesn’t really impact our question all that much, because, at the end of the day, it is pretty clear from Chazal that this category of Torah law is supposed to be fathomable to our rational, thinking capacity.
So here’s an idea. I don’t know if it is the answer, but maybe it’s workable.
Two punishments for one act, wherein each punishment is of a totally different category and type than the other, would just be too much. Yes, he did it. He violated both precepts, and perhaps technically he deserves both punishments. But that kind of depends on how you view the system of retribution in the Torah. If you relate to it as a strictly punitive measure, a matter of vengeance, then, yeah, it makes sense that he should get as many and sundry punishments as we can possibly throw at him.
But if you view it as a correctional system, which is of course what it really is, then it’s all a matter of how much is necessary to provide the potch necessary to get him back on track. That, and no more.
In the Purim story (it’s still Purim in Yerushalayim, which here in Eretz Yisrael spills over way past Yerushalayim’s boundaries; so, of course, we have to find some way of connecting this to Purim), there was a confluence of wrongdoing that the Jews at that time perpetrated. The Gemara in Maseches Megillah (12a) says that the talmidim of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai asked him why it was that the Jews of that time were deserving of a death sentence. “Nu, what do you think?” They told him, “Because they enjoyed the seudah of that rasha!” “If that were the case, then only those in Shushan should have been culpable, not all the Jews the world over.” So, then, what was in fact the real reason? “Because they bowed down to idols.” When the talmidim asked, “If so, how could there be any absolution for such a thing,” Rabi Shimon answered, “They only did it on the surface, so Hashem also only punished them on the surface.”
Aside from being a fascinating interchange, the commentary of which could easily fill a kuntras, it also demonstrates the fact that it was not as if there was one thing done wrong. Multiple issues had mushroomed. But, it seems, that they all stemmed from one root wrong turn. And that is trying to fit in to the surrounding culture. Not assimilation. Just not standing out too much. Don’t make too much of a show of the fact that we are so different. Let’s just kind of play it low key so that they’ll hopefully leave us alone.
Of course, they were so different from the host culture of Bavel, as the Gemara says that when it came to the seventh day of the party, which coincided with Shabbos, the Jews were busy with saying divrei Torah and singing zemiros whereas Achashveirosh and his cohorts were busy with their licentious schemes.
Still, they didn’t want to rock the boat. So they made a show of bowing down. And they attended the party. Mordechai, who insisted on absolute distinction in every facet, was scorned as a trouble maker.
Without getting too deep into the Purim saga, what is relevant for our discussion is that although there were multiple problems, since they all stemmed from one root error, it was enough for them to suffer one corrective measure. They didn’t need more than that.
This concept bears relevance not only to Beis Din and our understanding of Heavenly justice, it also should impact the way the courts of justice of our own minds function. Vis a vis others for sure. Not that it is your job to go around punishing people, but human beings do have a tendency to make constant judgments about the people around them. Whether they are good or no good, deserving of this that or the other. Also, when it comes to the people that you do sometimes punish, those little ones called your children, it is worthwhile to be aware of this yesod. That the whole focus is on providing corrective guidance, not proffering vengeful retribution for anything and everything possible.
Lastly, and not at all the least important, is vis a vis oneself. We all make blunders. Sometimes even willfully so. And sometimes those mistakes can come with a cascade effect drawing one violation after another, all merging into one big, bad “Shame on you!” But you have to be careful. Yes, it’s important to feel regretful about wrongdoings, but to subject yourself to multiple, sometimes incessant internal beatings, may in fact not be just.
Try to calmly sit down with yourself, work out what consequential steps really need to be taken for the sake of making amends and getting back on track, and leave it at that. An abundance of internal, emotional self-flagellations is likely to be counterproductive. Chances are that it isn’t going to get you where you want to be.
Instead, follow the Torah’s paradigm of k’dei rishaso. Work out precisely what approach will provide you with the right dose of corrective force, and then bolster yourself with an internal feeling of support and encouragement. If you do that, then b’ezras Hashem you’ll get right back on track and be even bigger for the experience.
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. In addition to having authored Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim on Halacha and Hashkafa, writes comprehensive chazara questions (in Hebrew) for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha. Rabbi Berman can be contacted at email@example.com.