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November 28, 2015 / 16 Kislev, 5776
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Stumbling The Blind


One of the many different mitzvos mentioned in this week’s parshah, Parshas Kedoshim, is the prohibition of lifnei iver – placing a stumbling block in front of a blind man. There is a discussion as to what sort of “stumbling blocks” are included in this prohibition.

On that pasuk, Rashi quotes the Toras Kohanim, which says that the pasuk refers to offering someone bad advice, i.e. advising someone to sell his field for a donkey.

There is a machlokes in the Gemara in general whether a pasuk may be entirely taken out of context, or whether we are always bound to the basic text. Here, the dispute would manifest itself as to whether it is actually prohibited to place a stumbling block in a blind man’s path. We pasken that we are bound to the wording of a pasuk; therefore, it is also prohibited to place a stumbling block in a blind man’s path.

The Gemara says that making an aveirah available to someone who otherwise would not be able to sin falls under the prohibition of lifnei iver. For example, it is prohibited to give a nazir – who is prohibited from drinking wine – a glass of wine that he could not otherwise have gotten, for this will create a “stumbling block” for him. A man unable to control himself from transgressing is considered an iver (blind sighted in this case).

The Gemara, in Avodah Zarah 22a, says that someone should not rent his field to a kusi because the kusi will work the field on Chol HaMoed and people will wrongfully accuse the landlord of working on Chol HaMoed. The Gemara asks: why are we only concerned that this will give the landlord a bad name but not concerned that the landlord will be transgressing the prohibition of lifnei iver? After all, the landlord has given the kusi a field that he can work on during Chol HaMoed that was otherwise unavailable to him. The Gemara answers that this is indeed a prohibition of lifnei iver and thus someone should not rent his field to a kusi for this reason.

Tosafos there points out that this Gemara serves as a proof to Rabbeinu Tam, who says that the prohibition of lifnei iver even applies to making rabbinic prohibitions available to others. Why? Because in Tosafos’s opinion, performing work on Chol HaMoed is only prohibited mi’de’rabbanan.

In stark contrast, the Ramban there disagrees with Tosafos on both points. The Ramban proves that working on Chol HaMoed is prohibited mi’de’oraisa from the fact that the Gemara says that someone will transgress the prohibition of lifnei iver by creating a situation whereby one can work on Chol HaMoed. According to the Ramban, lifnei iver only includes making de’oraisa prohibitions, not rabbinic ones, available to others. The Ramban disagrees, positing that working on Chol HaMoed is prohibited mi’de’oraisa. Tosafos, in Chagigah, also opines that the prohibition of lifnei iver only applies to de’oraisa prohibitions.

The Minchas Chinuch (mitzvah 232) asks the obvious question on the Ramban and Tosafos in Chagigah: how can making a rabbinic prohibition available to someone not fall under the prohibition of lifnei iver? Is telling someone to transgress a rabbinic prohibition not considered bad advice? Why then is placing a rabbinic “stumbling block” in the path of someone who will be blind sighted not included in the prohibition of lifnei iver?

I would like to suggest an answer to this question. There is a difference between giving bad advice and placing a form of stumbling block in the path of a “blind man.” When one gives advice to someone who trusts him, the trusted advice is the stumbling block. If his advice is faulty, it is considered a stumbling block in a blind man’s path.

About the Author: For questions or comments, e-mail RabbiRFuchs@gmail.com.

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One Response to “Stumbling The Blind”

  1. Karen Bryant says:

    Not if the Rabbi is contradicting or ignoring Scripture. God’s word is ultimate authority.

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