No One Likes a Tattle-Tale: Vayikra 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What is the most consequential secret you’ve ever kept? Do you regret keeping it? Or was it the right decision to make given the circumstances?

The book of Leviticus explains numerous reasons to bring a sacrifice – and one such reason is refraining from testifying about a wrongdoing:

The Pitch: “If a person incurs guilt — when he has heard a public imprecation and — although able to testify as one who has either seen or learned of the matter — he does not give information, so that he is subject to punishment …” – Leviticus 5:1

Swing #1: “The person is not punished by a court. It is between the individual and God. After all, in this case, it may be that no one but the person himself is even aware that he did the sin. … By saying that a case is beyond the jurisdiction of any court or ruler, the Torah recognizes that some things are beyond humans’ ability and humans’ right to judge or punish.” – Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah

Swing #2: “While [this verse] establishes the basic biblical requirement to testify it simultaneously provides a motive to do so: if a witness does not come forward, he shall ‘bear his punishment.’ … Leviticus indicates that only witnesses who refrain from coming forward will bear punishable sin, and that those who testify are exempt from guilt.” – Chaya T. Halbersam, Law & Truth in Biblical and Rabbinic Literature

Swing #3: “For one who hears his neighbor beswear him to testify for him if he has testimony on his behalf rationalizes, saying: Who can require me to get involved in a dispute that is not mine and to testify for him? And why should I cause injury to his disputant?” – Sefer Yesodei HaTorah

Late-Inning Questions: According to our commentators, who judges whether someone should keep incriminatory information quiet? Is it wrong to speak ill of a friend if the information is both true and will benefit the greater good? How do we decide when to speak uncomfortable truths about others?

On-Deck at TBT: We can’t wait for Purim! Check out our website for information about our food donation raffle, pickup pasta dinner, and Megillah reading (both in-person and over Zoom) that we’ll get to enjoy Wednesday, March 16th.

The Big Inning at the End: Maybe the fact that I’m celebrating the end of the lockout and the re-establishment of a full 2022 Major League Baseball season makes me naive. If so, ignorance is bliss. I’m just glad the game will come back.

Shabbat Shalom!