web analytics
August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Yiftach: An Ignorant Leader?

Leff-061413

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.”

Rav Simcha Zissel, the Alter of Kelm, states similarly but goes so far as to apply this rule to the wicked people mentioned in the Torah as well. Even these were men and women of greatness, full of faith in G-d, who made enormous mistaken calculations in a sophisticated way. Rav Noson Tzvi Finkel, the Alter from Slabodka, applies this concept to Yishmael, Esav, Lavan, Pharoh, Bilaam, and others. These individuals had profound grasp of heavenly matters, but became spiritually tragic figures when their philosophical approaches ran off course. However, their sins should certainly not be interpreted as plain and simple transgressions that we experience today.

The Arizal taught this same approach, making the point that the Torah would never mention wicked people and their sins if there were not great depth involved from which we are to learn. The Torah does not just tell stories of what occurred long ago—there is always profundity beneath the surface that requires investigations and study.

Of course, this does not change the fact that these people were reshaim, and deserved the various punishments meted out to them. However, the fact that they achieved great levels forces us to look at their misgivings in a different light. As Rav Eliyahu Dessler writes, many of the sins mentioned in the Torah regarding earlier generations would be considered mitzvos if done in today’s times. Often, because of the great levels earlier generations attained, Hashem judged them more severely. [See Rav Shlomo Wolbe’s Alei Shur, part 1, p. 227, Rav Avraham Korman’s Mavo LeTorah SheBichsav VeSheBaal Peh, p. 168–169, in the names of the Alters from Kelm and Slabodka, Rav Dessler’s Michtav MiEliyahu, vol. 1, p. 161–166, and the Mei HaShiloach on Parshas Pinchas.]

From the above discussion, we can state clearly that Yiftach was a tzadik and a talmid chacham. There is no doubt about that. Yiftach’s struggles and failures must be comprehended on a profound level.

And these are some of the happenings in this week’s Haftorah.

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.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Yiftach: An Ignorant Leader?”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
ISIS in Quneitra
Updates from Kuneitra, Syria [video]
Latest Judaism Stories
Taste-of-Lomdus-logo

First, how could a beis din of 23 judges present a guilty verdict in a capital punishment case? After all, only a majority of the 23 judges ruled in favor of his verdict.

Of paramount importance is that both the king and his people realize that while he is the leader, he is still a subject of God.

Daf-Yomi-logo

Untimely News
‘A Mourner Is Forbidden To Wear Shoes…’
(Mo’ed Katan 20b)

Questions-Answers-logo

Question: The Gemara in Berachot states that the sages authored our prayers. Does that mean we didn’t pray beforehand?

Menachem
Via Email

When a person feels he can control the destiny of other people, he runs the risk of feeling self-important, significant, and mighty.

Needless to say, it was done and they formed a great relationship as his friend and mentor. He started attending services and volunteered his time all along putting on tefillin.

He took me to a room filled with computer equipment and said, “You pray here for as long as you want.” I couldn’t believe my ears.

On Friday afternoon, Dov called Kalman. “Please make sure to return the keys for the car on Motzaei Shabbos,” he said. “We have a bris on Sunday morning and we’re all going. We also need the roof luggage bag.”

On Chol HaMoed some work is prohibited and some is permitted. According to some opinions, the work prohibition is biblical; according to others, it’s rabbinical.

If there is a mitzvas minuy dayanim in the Diaspora, then why is there a difference between Israel and the Diaspora in the number of judges and their distribution?

Judaism is a religion of love but also a religion of justice, for without justice, love corrupts.

The time immediately preceding Mashiach’s arrival is likened to the birth pangs of a woman in labor.

Eisenhower understood that motivated men will fight much harder and longer than unmotivated men.

Who does not want to get close to Hashem? Yet, how do we do that?

More Articles from Rabbi Boruch Leff
Leff-081514

“When a mother plays with her child there is an acute awareness of the child. But even when the mother works at a job or is distracted by some other activity, there is a natural, latent awareness of her child’s existence.

Kotel and Temple Mount

The Three Weeks determines the “who we are and how we live” as Jews.

Sometimes when Chazal say that two different people are really one, they do not mean it literally, but rather figuratively.

Yehoshua knew that the outcome of the battles would depend not on military might, but on the spiritual strength of Klal Yisrael.

The question begs: how in the world can we accept that Bnei Yisrael en masse did not ever keep the mitzvah of shemittah?

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

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.

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

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: