Much of our sedra connects in some way or another to the theme of mixtures. We are warned about mixing male and female clothing, about mixing wool and linen in our garments, about types of animals which may not thresh together (kila’im), and about certain groups of people who may not marry (mix) into klal yisrael. We are therefore going to discuss an idea which is perhaps one of the greatest spiritual ‘mixtures,’ and at the same time has several connections to topics which come up in our sedra.

In the third Rashi in the Torah, Rashi comments on the choice of the Torah’s lexus in that it refers to HaShem using the name ‘Elokim,’ as opposed to the Yud-keh-vav-keh name. This name Elokim represents the attribute of strict justice (middas hadin) and not giving any leeway in overlooking any part of sin whatsoever – it is justice in the strictest sense. The four-letter name, however, represents HaShem’s attribute of mercy (middas harachamim); the dealing more compassionately with His creations and judging them in a more positive light. Explains Rashi, that HaShem originally thought to create the world with middas hadin [hence the start of the Torah using Elokim], but He saw that the world would not survive on this, and so put middas harachamim first and joined it with the middas hadin, as it says (bereishis 2;4) ‘on the day that HaShem (four-letter name) Elokim created earth and heavens.’ This mixture of rachamim and din is not natural; the two are virtual opposites, yet HaShem mixed them together. In fact, some Chassidim have the custom to dilute the kiddush wine with a few drops of water, for wine represents din, and water rachamim, and so they emulate HaShem’s ‘mixture’ by diluting the din with rachamim.

The messilas yesharim[i] explains a bit more about this cryptic mixture of din and rachamim. He writes that each part of the mixture influences the other part, yet both are not lost. For example, he says that middas hadin dictates that the punishment should come immediately after the sin is committed, and the punishment should be severe (one did go against HaShem’s word). But middas harachamim dilutes this in providing space between the sin and the punishment, making the punishment less severe, and allowing for a mechanism called Teshuva (repentance) to undo the sin entirely. But middas hadin is not removed completely; there still is a punishment, just a lighter and later one. In fact, the Torah itself is called both din and rachamim[ii], echoing this mixture of the two attributes.

Our system of judgment, in beis din, is a reflection of HaShem’s Torah in this world. The Ramban[iii] explains that the beis din are referred to in the Torah by the name ‘elokim’ because HaShem is with them in judgment and He judges, and elsewhere the Ramban writes[iv] that HaShem will not let the beis din err in judgments. Thus, our judiciary also has this combination of din and rachamim in its laws and proceedings. We are going to cite some of the numerous examples of this mixture of din and rachamim in our judicial system, several of which surface in our sedra.
Firstly, though the Torah states that certain people who deserve capital punishment must be hanged, they are not to be left hanged overnight; but rather buried that day[v]. In fact, what actually occurred was that beis din would hang the person very close to sunset, so that they would need to remove him immediately to avoid the prohibition of ‘leaving him hanging’ into the night.[vi] Moreover, the tree on which the person was hanged was buried too, so people could not ever point to the tree and be reminded of the person’s sin and say ‘this was the tree upon which such-and-such a person was hanged.’[vii] This is one example of beis din combining deserved punishment (din) and mercy.

Furthermore, in order to convict someone in a capital case, beis din must have a majority of two, whilst in order to declare a person innocent, any majority (i.e. even one person) is sufficient.[viii] So too, if the beis din’s vote to convict the accused to undergo capital punishment is unanimous, the halacha is that the accused is let free[ix], because if there is no merit found whatsoever then this shows that the judges have not looked into the case well enough; each person has some merit to his case. Similarly, if the beis din in a capital case found out that their judgment was based on an (not too obvious) error, if they had convicted the accused they may return him and re-judge his case, but if they had found him innocent, they may not return him to retry his case.[x] Moreover, in our sedra we are told (25;3) that there is to be a punishment of (a maximum of) forty lashes for certain sins, but in reality beis din would mete out a maximum of thirty-nine. Why? Because beis din were concerned that on the off-chance that they would accidentally administer one more lash than they should, the total should come to the prescribed forty and not forty one, which would be one over the limit.[xi] In addition, if beis din examined the person convicted of lashes and decided that he was only physically capable of receiving less than the thirty-nine lashes, he would receive less. And even if beis din discovered after administering the reduced number of lashes that the person was healthy enough to receive more, he would get no further lashes.[xii]

Perhaps the greatest example of the mixture of din and rachamim of beis din is that any capital punishment carried out by the beis din acted as an atonement for the convicted’s sin. This meant that someone who has committed a grave (no pun intended) sin fully deserved of the death penalty would see their sin atoned for upon the carrying out of their sentence.[xiii] The above are but a few of the many examples of beis din acting with a combined sense of din and rachamim. [It is also worth noting that the true judgment occurs at the termination of one’s life]

One can extend this theme of mixing din and rachamim to the current month of Elul. Besides Elul being a preparation for rosh Hashanah and yom kippur – when we entreat HaShem to dilute his judging of us with rachamim – there is a similar mixture found in Elul and Rosh HaShanah. The Ramban[xiv] seems to connect the attribute of din to serving HaShem from yirah (fear), with the attribute of rachamim connected to serving HaShem out of love (ahavah). Elul and Rosh HaShanah both comprise a mixture of these traits of ahava and yirah, as I heard from Rav Osher Weiss. We shall give examples.

On the yirah side, the Rambam reports[xv] that we do not say Hallel on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur because ‘they are days of repentance and fear and fright, not days of extra simcha.’ And those days are called ‘the days of awe’ (yamim nora’im) after all. However, there is also the aspect of ahava and even simcha to Elul and the Yamim Nora’im. Firstly, Chazal tell us that Elul is a pneumonic of ani ledodi vedodi li; referring to us and HaShem as each other’s beloved. Furthermore, aside from being yom hadin, Rosh HaShanah is a yom tov[xvi] and has the halacha of simchas yom tov[xvii] and a seudah. In fact, some even ascribe simchas yom tov to yom kippur as well (no seudah!),[xviii] and the mishna (Ta’anis 26b) describes yom kippur as one of our happiest days of the year due to the atonement therein and the fact that it was the day that we received the second tablets.[xix] Therefore, we see that Elul too is a mixture of ahava and yirah.

Finally, on a more practical note, let’s suggest something to work on during the days of Elul leading up to yom hadin. The Chofetz Chaim quotes a midrash[xx] that says if you speaks good of other people, the angels will speak good of you to HaShem. [Be careful not to speak good of people around others who are likely to counter with some negative statements about that individual.] This is a great way to build up to the day of judgment, when we are looking for HaShem to show mercy and good favour to us.

Have a great Shabbes,


[i] Written by Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato, Italy and Amsterdam, 1707-1746. This bit is towards the end of perek 4
[ii] ‘Rachmana’ is used in several gemarras to refer to the Torah.
[iii] Shemos 21;6
[iv] Devarim 19;19. Also see the Rambam hilchos Sanhedrin 3;6 that the Shechinah is amongst every worthy beis din. See also hilchos Sanhedrin 23;9
[v] Devarim 21;22-23 (our sedra)
[vi] Rambam hilchos Sanhedrin 15;7 These sources that I quote from the Rambam tend to be from the gemarra anyway, I just didn’t take the time to find out where in the gemarra, so left it at the Rambam.
[vii] Rambam hilchos Sanhedrin 15;9
[viii] Rambam hilchos Sanhedrin 8;1
[ix] Rambam hilchos Sanhedrin 9;1
[x] Rambam hilchos Sanhedrin 10;9
[xi] Rambam hilchos Sanhedrin 17;1. This halacha is even more amazingly considerate if one takes into account that there was a special person appointed to count the number of lashes, and a second person to shout ‘hit,’ without which the (third) person appointed to give the lashes could not hit the convicted. (ibid. 16;11) Thus, the chances of beis din administering one more than necessary is rather minimal.
[xii] Rambam hilchos Sanhedrin 17;2
[xiii] As a brilliant illustration of this, see the Maharsha in Sanhedrin 64b, who says that the reason beis din may not learn a punishment for any given sin via a kal vachomer (‘ein onshim min hadin’) is that the way a kal vachomer would work here is like this: If sin A results in punishment 1, sin B which is worse than sin A should definitely get punishment 1. We do not say this, because maybe sin B requires a greater punishment and so giving the sinner punishment 1 would not give him the required atonement for sin B.
[xiv] Shemos 20;8
[xv] Hilchos Chanuka 3;6
[xvi] Rambam hilchos yom tov 1;1
[xvii] Sefer Yira’im 227, Rav Yonassan MiLunillle 10b in Rif Eiruvin right at the end of the perek.
[xviii] Rav Yonassan MiLunille above. The Year’im above argues.
[xix] Gemarra Ta’anis 30b
[xx] The midrash is Midrash Mishlei 11;27 and is quoted by the Chafetz Chaim in his sefer Chovas HaShmirah perek 5

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