Sunday, 6 October 2013

Beyond Maakeh and Lo Tasim Damim

Well, now that we've looked at the scope of Maakeh and Lo Tasim Damim, let's look beyond them. Even where these mitzvot don't apply, others may.



The Rambam brings another, broader mizvat aseh into the picture in after introducing Maakeh(רוצח יא:ד)

וכן כל מכשול שיש בו סכנת נפשות--מצות עשה להסירו ולהישמר ממנו ולהיזהר בדבר יפה יפה, שנאמר "הישמר לך ושמור נפשך" (דברים ד,ט). ואם לא הסיר, והניח המכשולות המביאין לידי סכנה--ביטל מצות עשה, ועבר על "לא תשים דמים" (דברים כב,ח).

The pasuk is a curious one to bring, since it sounds more like a warning to keep the mitzvot, than a mitzva to remove hazards:

רק הישמר לך ושמור נפשך מאוד, פן-תשכח את-הדברים אשר-ראו עיניך ופן-יסורו מלבבך, כול, ימי חייך; והודעתם לבניך, ולבני בניך

The source of this drasha is unclear and it appears to be of the Rambam's own invention. The pasuk implies that protecting oneself is a good thing, so even if we don't have a formal mitzva to do so, the Rambam regards this statement of value as halachically binding.


The Ramban on the Torah(דברים כב:ח) brings a different, less novel pasuk(ויקרא יט:טז)

לא תלך רכיל בעמיך לא תעמד על דם רעך אני יהוה

The Sefer Hachinuch counts this as an independent mitzva and describes it as an obligation to save the life of our fellow Jew who is in mortal danger.

This seems like an obvious choice, so why didn't the Rambam bring this pasuk? Perhaps because it is a לא תעשה so it only extends Lo Tasim Damin, not Maakeh.

Why do we need Maakeh and Lo Tasim Damim

So in addition to Maakeh and Lo Tasim Damim, we have even broader obligations to remove hazards from one or both of these additional sources. So why did the Torah need to command us in mitzvat Maakeh and Lo Tasim Damim at all?

One answer that I've heard(I think from Rav Michael Edrei) is that the torah wants us to be more careful in our own home. Normally, we wouldn't be obligated to put up a guard-rail on the roof, since the roof is a place people rarely go, and when they do, they know to be careful. Nevertheless, the Torah gave a higher standard for the home.

Another answer is that these general mitzvot only cover mortal danger, while Lo Tasim Damim also coveres injury.

Another answer is that לא תעמד על דם רעך is only concerned with others, while Maakeh and Lo Tasim Damim also are concerned with your safety.

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