Sunday, June 27, 2010

What was Kozbi guilty of?

Today is the yahrzeit of the Ohr HaChaim haKadosh, so let me mention a question he raises on the parsha. We know why Zimri was killed by Pinchas, but why was Kozbi deserving of death? What issur is there for a bas noach to have relations with a Jewish man? There is an issur for a bas noach who is married to commit adultery, but who says Kozbi was married? And even if she was, how would Pinchas have known that? Safeik nefasos l'hakeil!

The Ohr HaChaim suggests that just as we kill an animal which a person has relations with so that the sin is blotted out and people don't see the animal and comment, "Oh, that's the cow Ploni sinned with," so too there was an obligation to kill Kozbi because of Zomri's sin.

Other Achronim suggest that the issur here is one of lifnei iver, as even a ben noach is not permitted to abet even another ben noach in sin.

I had in mind as follows: Rashi (Baba Basra 50b) writes that the halacha of safeik nefasos l'hakeil is based on the pasuk of "v'hitzilu ha'eidah." Tosfos disagrees, and argues that no pasuk is needed -- logically, a person cannot be killed unless we are certain of their guilt; to act otherwise is tanatamount to murder.

Is it possible that if the din of safeik nefashos l'hakeil is based on a special pasuk that it only applies to Jews, but not to bnei noach?

This is not a great answer because: 1) Tosfos is clearly compelling; Rashi must have some other reason for introducing the pasuk other than to tell us that you cannot carry out a death penalty in a situation of safeik (maybe more on that in the future...); 2) Safeik nefashos l'hakeil is a rule that tells us how beis din should function; who the defendant is (Jew or ben noach) should not make a difference.


  1. Anonymous12:58 AM

    im confused. tosfos in avodah zarah says ben noach has no lifnei iver. theres one shver pri magadim that ben noach does have lifnei iver but the achr ask on him from tos a.z.

  2. My son told me that he found this answer in the sefer Chavatzeles haSharon, but I have not seen it inside to know what he bases it on.

  3. Anonymous10:20 AM

    maybe missayeh

  4. Anonymous5:00 PM

    i saw chavatzeles inside. he brings from the pri migadim and is docheh from tosafos.

    as for safeik nefashos-you might be interested in chasam sofer chelek 6 siman 25 if safeik deoraya lchumra applies to ben noach or not

  5. The Rambam in Issurei Biah ch. 12 brings from the gemara (az 36b) which says that this din of kanoyin pogin bo is halacha l'moshe mi'sinai. Look at his lashon at the end:

    ודבר זה הל"מ הוא ראיה לדבר זה מעשה פנחס בזמרי

    He adds in that the rayah for this is the ma'aseh. Rashi there says something similar. So maybe this is part of the halacha l'moshe mi'sinai?

    I could be way off here, just a thought.

  6. Thanks for the mareh makom to the C.S. I had a hunch to look at the Margoliyas HaYam to see if he discusses this, but never got around to it.
    The ma'aseh being the ra'aya has to be after the fact, but how did Pinchas know?

  7. The Or HaChaim's idea that they were the takalah and that's why they were killed seems right based on a pasuk in parshas matos -- where Moshe is upset that the midyan women were not killed in the war - he says "hein heinah hayu li-bnei Yisrael bidvar Bilaam limsor ma'al ba-Hashem al devar Peor, vatehi ha-magefah ba-adas Hashem." -- Moshe notes that their activity caused the magefah.

    Perhaps this is not so far off from the lifnei iveir idea -- that their actions caused the damage to bnai Yisrael and therefore, they should not have done so -- regardless if there is a techinical issur on them.