web analytics
April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Yiftach: An Ignorant Leader?

Leff-061413

Share Button

One of the most complex Tanach personalities is the central figure of this week’s Haftorah: Yiftach, the Shofet, Judge.

One the one hand, Yiftach is not seen as someone who was very knowledgeable in Torah. In fact, Chazal (Tanchuma Bechukosai 5) go so far as to describe Yiftach as not being a “ben Torah,” and due to his lack of knowledge and understanding, he very mistakenly believed that he was obligated to fulfill his fateful vow to sacrifice the first being to greet him after his victory over Ammon. As a result, Yiftach consecrated his daughter to Hashem.

As far as what that sacrifice actually meant, there are commentators (Radak, Malbim) who say that despite what the simple reading of the verses suggests, Yiftach did not actually bring his daughter as a human sacrifice. These commentaries refuse to accept that Yiftach would act in such an ignorant and lowly manner. The Chumash makes clear many times that the Ribbono Shel Olam detests human sacrifice. Yiftach’s sacrifice of his daughter means that she was made to live a hermit and nazirite type of holy life, never to marry. Be that as it may, Chazal do not seem to look to Yiftach as a paradigm of Torah scholarship.

On the other hand, Yiftach is listed as one of the Shoftim, and based on Avos D’Rav Nosson, and some Rishonim (Machzor Vitri and Meiri), we must say that as a judge of the Jewish People, he was part of the line of Torah giants who taught and transferred the Torah from generation to generation. Machzor Vitri goes so far as to mention Yiftach by name in the long list of the Torah leaders’ transmission of Torah from Sinai.

In addition, though acknowledging that Yiftach was far from being the greatest Torah scholar and leader in our history, Chazal emphatically state that his Torah leadership authority was supreme in his generation, Yiftach b’doro k’Shmuel b’doro – though not as great as Shmuel HaNavi, Yiftach must be given the same authority and respect as Shmuel was given (see Rosh HaShannah 25b, Shmuel Aleph 12:11, where the pasuk says Hashem sent Yiftach to the Jewish People to save them and Rashi Parshas Shoftim 17:9 on the phrase “the judge who is in your times”).

The same holds true in any generation in which the people might feel that their leaders are not as great as those of previous generations. Chazal instruct us that rather than lament the relative lack of greatness in our Torah leadership when contrasted with earlier ones, we are to give our full allegiance and respect to the greatest Torah giants that we possess, the leaders in our generation. No one should ever say, “Well, so and so is not as great as Rav Moshe Feinstein, so I don’t have to care what he says.” Such a statement flies flatly in the face of Yiftach b’doro k’Shmuel b’doro. Essentially, we must revere and respect the Torah leaders we do have – the best that we’ve got.

We must, therefore, surmise that Yiftach was actually a tremendous talmid chacham and Torah leader. If he were living today, he would be many thousands of times greater than our greatest Torah scholar. He was not the terrible ignoramus he appears to be when one superficially studies Tanach and some of Chazal’s statements regarding him. How then did he make such a colossal mistake regarding the sacrifice of his daughter?

The basic answer must be that things are not as simple as they sound. In fact, whenever we discuss a personality figure mentioned in Tanach, things are never as simple as they appear. Whatever the issue and struggle relating to his vow, his daughter and the fulfillment of it, we must realize that the subject is very deep and profound, a sophisticated issue in Torah law and philosophy. If indeed Yiftach failed this particular test, which Chazal do indicate (see Taanis 4a), we need to understand the failure in its proper context.

Rav Shlomo Wolbe writes that the sins of earlier generations mentioned in the Torah must never be understood at face value. They were not committed as a result of animalistic urges and desires, or even simple “foul-ups.” Rather, they were grounded in mistaken intellectual calculations, always sincerely l’shem Shamayim, for the sake of Heaven, as the pasuk in Yeshaya (5:21) states, “they were wise men in their own eyes.”

Share Button

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “Yiftach: An Ignorant Leader?”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Unit 9900 is an intelligence unit that utilizes the unique capabilities of soldiers on the autism spectrum.
Autism in the IDF: Uniquely Talented Soldiers
Latest Judaism Stories
PTI-041814

All the commentaries ask why Hashem focuses on the Exodus as opposed to saying, “I am Hashem who created the entire world.”

Leff-041814

Someone who focuses only on the bones of the Torah makes his bones dry and passionless.

The following is President Obama’s statement on Passover (April 14, 2014). As he has in the past, the President held an official Passover Seder at the White House. Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to all those celebrating Passover in the United States, in Israel, and around the world. On Tuesday, just as we […]

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

The tendency to rely on human beings rather than G-d has been our curse throughout the centuries.

“Who is wise? One who learns from each person” (Pirkei Avot 4:1)

In Judaism, to be without questions is a sign not of faith, but of lack of depth.

“I’ll try to help as we can,” said Mr. Goodman, “but we already made a special appeal this year. Let me see what other funds we have. I’ll be in touch with you in a day or two.”

Rashi is bothered by the expression Hashem used: “the Jews need only travel.”

Reckoning Time
‘Three Festivals, Even Out Of Order’
(Beizah 19b)

Two husbands were there to instruct us in Texas hold ‘em – and we needed them.

Question: Why do we start counting sefirat ha’omer in chutz la’aretz on the second night of Pesach when the omer in the times of the Beit Hamikdash was cut on Chol HaMoed?

M. Goldman
(Via E-Mail)

A few background principles regarding the prohibitions of chametz mixtures on Pesach may provide some shopping guidance.

According to the Rambam, the k’nas applies to any chametz on Pesach with which one could, in theory, transgress the aveirah – even if no transgression actually occurred.

She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.

Marror is the reliving of the bitter enslavement and matzah is the under-eighteen-minutes redemption.

More Articles from Rabbi Boruch Leff
Leff-041814

Someone who focuses only on the bones of the Torah makes his bones dry and passionless.

Leff-032114

While our purpose in this world is to use our free will to choose good, to overcome our tests and challenges, part of that choosing should include a deep wish that we wouldn’t even have the ability to sin.

King Achav reports back to his wife, Queen Izevel, thoroughly dejected. It seems Eliyahu has defeated them and their idolatrous practices. The nation would no longer worship Baal and return once again to serving Hashem. This threatened Achav and Izevel’s entire hold on their kingdom.

We specifically use our legs to celebrate to demonstrate our new completeness.

Shemos Rabbah states that Yaakov transmitted the “secret of the redemption.”

What in the world happened to the Ten Lost Tribes? How could we lose ten out of twelve tribes, 83% of our peoplehood?

You thought that the Flood, the Mabul, was something that happened a long time ago. I did too—until I saw the Radak on a pasuk in this week’s haftarah.

“For this to Me is like the waters of Noach. Just as I swore that the waters of Noach shall never again pass on to the earth, so too I swore never to be completely irate or fume at you.’ (Yeshaya 54:9)

Why do we call this Shabbos, Shabbos Shuvah? Is it because it’s the only Shabbos during the Aseres Yemei Teshuva? That can’t be the reason. After all, we don’t call this Shabbos, Shabbos Teshuvah. It’s specifically called Shabbos Shuvah. So you’ll tell me, shuvah, teshuvah—same thing, right? Both mean repentance. But we will see that the difference between teshuvah and shuvah is all the difference in the world.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/yiftach-an-ignorant-leader/2013/06/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: