At the beginning of Shoftim,
the verse states:
"By the testimony of two or three witnesses shall there be put to death he who is subject to the death penalty." The Rambam
"The Torah decrees (G'zeiras HaKosuv
) that neither the death penalty nor lashes are administered to an individual upon his own admission of guilt -- only upon the testimony of two witnesses."
The Rambam is saying that although it is an established principle that "The admission of a defendant is tantamount to the testimony of one-hundred witnesses," this only applies to obligating the person to pay money because of his admission; his admission of guilt, however, cannot make him subject to the penalties of death or lashes.
The Radbaz states, "Somewhat of a reason may be given for this: A person's soul is not his own possession but G-d's, as the verse states, 'Soul's are Mine.' Therefore a person's admission does not apply to something that does not belong to him. As to lashes -- it is 'half a death.' Money, however, belongs to the person. We therefore say that [with regard to money] 'The admission of a defendant is tantamount to the testimony of one-hundred witnesses.'"
The statement of the Radbaz need's further clarification: The entire world is "G-d's possession," as the verse states, "The earth and all therein is G-d's." Or as the Chinuch says, "Everything belongs to the Master of All" -- including man's possessions, as it says, "Silver and gold are Mine, says G-d." What, then, is the difference between a person's "soul" belonging to G-d and everything else belonging to Him?
We must perforce say that though the entire world belongs to G-d, there exists a major difference between man's possession of his soul and his money. Just what is this difference?
A person's soul and life were placed in his trust for safekeeping but do not belong to him. Thus the Alter Rebbe rules that "a person's body is not at all in his possession that he may smite it..." So that a person's being forewarned against damaging his body is not only because it is prohibited, but also relates to the matter of ownership -- a person doesn't own his body; G-d owns it and entrusts it to him for safekeeping.
A person's possessions and wealth, however, were given over to man in a manner that he truly owns them. Thus, the reason "one must be scrupulous not to lose, waste or damage" one's money and possessions is not because they don't belong to him, rather it is because of the negative prohibition of Bal Tashchis, the prohibition against acting in a wasteful and pernicious manner.
Man's ownership in no way contradicts G-d's ownership of the selfsame item, for the following reason. G-d's proprietary rights to the entire world, a direct consequence of His having created the world and ruling over it, is of a general nature; even after a person owns an object it still has not left G-d's possession and G-d can take it from him at any time.
Since a person actually owns his possessions and wealth, the law therefore is that with regard to his money "The admission of a defendant is tantamount to the testimony of one-hundred witnesses." This is not so regarding matters of life and limb which always remain in G-d's possession -- man does not own them and therefore cannot relinquish them through his personal admission and testimony.
Proof of this difference can be adduced from Birchas HaNe'henin, the blessings a person is obligated to make over something from which he derives pleasure:
Our rabbis state, "It is forbidden to derive pleasure from this world without first making a blessing. If he did so, it is as if he derived pleasure from an item belonging to G-d (Kodshei Shomayim), for the verse says, 'The earth and all therein is G-d's.'" Having made the blessing, the person receives permission from G-d to derive pleasure from that which is His.
However, this obligation only applies to something from which one's body derives pleasure, but not to the pleasure derived from wealth, receiving money, etc. What is the difference?
In light of the above the difference is very clear:
With regard to a person's body and soul which are entirely "divine possessions" and not one's own, their pleasures are similar to body and soul itself -- as objects belonging to G-d one may not derive pleasure from them without a blessing.
A person's possessions and money, however, were from the very outset given over to man's ownership and are not considered "divine possessions." A blessing therefore need not be made in order to permit the person to derive pleasure therefrom.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXIV, pp. 106-108
states in Hilchos Melachim
"In the future, Melech HaMashiach
, the Messianic King, will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, returning it to its initial sovereignty.... Anyone who does not believe in him or does not wait for his coming, denies not only [the statements] of the other prophets, but [those of] the Torah and Moshe, our teacher.
"The Torah testified to his coming, as the verse states, 'G-d will bring back your captivity ... Even if your diaspora is at the ends of the heavens, G-d will bring you [to the land].' These explicit words of the Torah include all the statements made by all the prophets.
"Mention is also made in the portion of Bilaam in which Bilaam prophesies [the coming of] two anointed kings: the first anointed king, David, who saved Israel from her oppressors; and the final anointed king who will arise from his descendants and save Israel [in the final days]...."
In the next law the Rambam goes on to say: "Similarly, in regard to the cities of refuge the verse states, 'When G-d will expand your borders ..., you must add three more cities.' This command was never fulfilled. Surely, G-d did not give this command in vain. [It must, perforce, refer to the times of Mashiach]."
What is missing in the proof-texts cited by the Rambam in the first law that impels him to bring an additional proof from the cities of refuge? Additionally, why does the Rambam divide these proofs into two separate laws?
In fact, the proof from the cities of refuge introduces something entirely novel. The commandment to add in the times of Mashiach an additional three cities of refuge makes the matter of Mashiach's arrival one of the conditions of the commandments of the Torah.
That is to say, although the future redemption is explicitly stated in the Torah and the Rambam includes belief in the redemption as one of the fundaments of the Torah, nevertheless this is not one of the commandments of the Torah, for we do not find the Torah commanding us to believe in the redemption. Merely, since the redemption is explicitly stated in the Torah, whoever fails to believe in it "denies the Torah." However, the commandment of the additional cities of refuge transforms the redemption into part of one of the Torah's commandments.
But what is so special about the redemption becoming a part of one of the Torah's commandments?
The force of a commandment is truly eternal. Thus the Rambam writes: "It is clearly and explicitly stated in the Torah that the mitzvos of the Torah endure eternally and forever. They are not subject to change, nor to reduction or addition." The Rambam reiterates this in Hilchos Melachim: "The main thrust of the matter is, that the Torah, its statutes and its laws are everlasting. We may not add to them or subtract from them."
Since redemption is part of the commandment of the cities of refuge, therefore just as the cities of refuge is a commandment and as such "endures forever and is not subject to change," so, too, is it impossible for any change to occur -- G-d forbid -- in the promised redemption through Mashiach.
In light of the above we will better understand the Rambam's phrasing regarding the three cities of refuge, namely, "G-d did not give this command in vain." The Rambam is underscoring that since the additional three cities of refuge at the time of Mashiach's arrival is a commandment, it necessarily follows that it is impossible for it to change, G-d forbid, for G-d's commandments endure forever.
With regard to a divine promise transmitted by a prophet there exist circumstances that might engender a change, e.g., punishments foretold that do not come to pass, either because of G-d's forbearing or because repentance was done and the iniquities were forgiven. Even when the prophesy is of glad tidings and will not change, still this does not mean that the promise itself is not subject to change, only that it will in actuality not change.
Regarding the eternality of Torah, however, we are dealing with an entity that totally transcends the aspect of change, it is impossible for it to change. For just as G-d is not subject to change, so too are His Torah and its commandments, which are an expression of His will and wisdom, not subject to change.
Thus, the promise of redemption foretold by the prophets, although even as prophecy they will assuredly come to pass, yet they fall under the heading of "prophecy" -- something that even when it will not change is still subject to change.
With redemption becoming part of a commandment of the Torah, it becomes part of Torah's eternality -- something that is not even subject to change.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXIV, pp. 114-117.
- (Back to text) Devarim 17:6.
- (Back to text) Hilchos Sanhedrin, conclusion of ch. 18.
- (Back to text) Gittin 40b, and sources cited there.
- (Back to text) Ibid.
- (Back to text) See also Rambam, Hilchos Rotzeiach 1:4.
- (Back to text) Yechezkel 18:4.
- (Back to text) Tehillim 24:1. See also Berachos 35a.
- (Back to text) Mitzvah 328, and so too in many other mitzvos.
- (Back to text) Chaggai 2:8, and see commentaries there.
- (Back to text) Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZaken, Choshen Mishpat, Hilchos Nizkei Guf v'Nefesh, par. 4.
- (Back to text) Ibid., Hilchos Shmiras Guf v'Nefesh u'Bal Tashchis, par. 14.
- (Back to text) See Radak on Chaggai, ibid.; Rashi on Berachos, ibid.
- (Back to text) Berachos 35a; Rambam, Hilchos Berachos 1:2; Tur, Orach Chayim 46; Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZaken, Orach Chayim 167:1.
- (Back to text) See Tosafos, Pesachim 53b; Ramban beginning of Berachos ch. 8; Magein Avraham 2126:1. See also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIV, p. 149.
- (Back to text) 11:1.
- (Back to text) See Introduction of the Rambam to chapter Cheilek
- (Back to text) Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah beginning of ch. 9.
- (Back to text) 11:3.
- (Back to text) See Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 10:4.
- (Back to text) See Malachi 3:6.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIX, p. 182ff; Vol. XXIII, p. 33ff.