OU TORAHDedicated by the Jacobs and Chill Families in Memory of Harold and Pearl Jacobs
Dora Bas Rivka Silver O'H
Okay, Now THIS Is Messed Up!
Another story from the early days of the Judges: there was a Levite who lived in Mt. Ephraim whose concubine left him and returned to her father's home. After four months, the Levite went to retrieve her. Everyone was reconciled and the Levite stayed at his father-in-law's house for several days. (A concubine is sort of like a wife, but without a marriage contract. It's beyond the scope of this synopsis to get into that here.) After a few days, the man and his concubine took to the road. At nightfall, they stopped in a Benjaminite city called Gibeah. There, they stayed with a local man, an Ephramite, who invited them in. Here's where things went horribly wrong.
A group of people from Gibeah acted like the inhabitants of Sodom did to Lot when he hosted the angels. They demanded that the man be sent out so that they could engage him in acts of sodomy. In a misguided show of hospitality, the host offered his own daughter and the concubine to the mob. (Wasn't the concubine also a guest deseving of his protection?) The mob initially declined this offer, but the man pushed his concubine out to them. A bird in the hand, they took the deal and molested her all night long. At daybreak, she was released, made her way back to the host's house, and collapsed on the doorstep, where she expired.
Okay, this next part is going to seem REALLY bizarre, but stay with me here:
When the man saw what had been done to his concubine (as if he hadn't pushed her out), he cut her corpse into 12 pieces and sent one to each Tribe telling the story of what the mob in Gibeah had done. (In this case, 12 includes both sons of Joseph and Levi; Benjamin did not receive one.) The purpose was to stir the passions of the nation that such a thing could be done. It worked, because they called a national meeting to address the atrocity.
A short Insight into Judges, Chapter 19Tosfos (Gittin 6a) writes in the name of Seder Olam that the story of our perek, “Pilegesh B'givah", occurred on Shabbos. Based on this assumption , we can understand why verse eleven emphasizes, “They were near Y'vus when the sun was very low.” Clearly, this was an issue because Shabbos was fast approaching.
With this understanding of the possuk, Tosfos understand one facet of the Chazal that teaches: “If a person instills too much fear in another it could lead to violating the serious sins of illicit relationships, murder and Shabbos desecration.” The story of “Pilegesh B'giva”, Tosfos posits, illustrates how fear can cause Shabbos desecration.
However, the Maharsha asks, where do we see Shabbos desecration in the story of “Pilegesh B'givah”? The Maharsha answers that it was not the taking of the pilegesh, but the war between B'nei Yisrael and the tribe of Binyamin that followed that took place on Shabbos. It was a milchemes mitzva, a war fulfilling a commandment, and allowed the desecration of the Shabbos.
R' Moshe Feinstein, z”tl, (Dibros Moshe, Gittin, he'eros 1,64) has great difficulty with this Maharsha for two major reasons:
1) While it is true that a milchemes mitzva pushes off the laws of Shabbos, that is only true if the war was started at least three days before Shabbos. If this occurs, the war does not have to be put on hold because of Shabbos.
2) The war with the tribe of Binyamin is not called a milchemes mitzva. That term is reserved for wars with non- Jewish nations. The whole war against Binyamin was based on a ruling of the Sanhedrin with consultation of the Urim V'tumim that the proper punishment for the tribe of Binyamin was execution. This was similar to beis din authorizing the execution of people of a Jewish city that worships idols. It is clear that carrying out a punishment on Shabbos does not allow for Shabbos desecration.
R' Moshe does offer other possibilities for what the chilul Shabbos might have been.