Shabbos 70 and Parashas Behar Killing financially and emotionally 

Shabbos 70 and Parashas Behar

Killing financially and emotionally

Our Mishna taught us that if a person remembers it is shabbos but forgot that various melachos(categories of work)  are forbidden on shabbos, and did them all, he is liable to bring a separate korban for each of them.

On our daf, the Gemara brings various sources for this ruling.

One of the sources brought is the passuk מחלליה מות יומת (one who desecrated it shall surely die.)

As we already know from another verse that one who intentionally breaks shabbos ( with warning and witnesses in the time of Sanhedrin) is   חייב מיתה (liable to capital punishment,) the Gemora deduces that this must be referring to shogeig (an unknowing transgression) , and that the doubling of the word מות in מות יומת mean that one can get many “deaths”  if one transgresses multiple categories of work.

The Gemora then says an amazing thing:

As there is clearly no death penalty for shogeig, this must refer to him being “killed with money”- in other words, financially hurt by the cost of the many sacrifices he needs to bring.

The frightening message of this Gemara is that it is possible to “kill” someone by hurting him financially- destroying a person’s financial position in a certain sense is like killing him.

We see a similar concept in the Midrash (Pirkei d Rabbi Eliezer 40, brought in Rashi Shmos 4/19), where one who has lost his financial assets is considered as one who has died.

We also   could possibly  see this idea in the well-known law that if a wealthy person loses his money, there is a mitzva of charity ( within ones means obviously and the 20% max) to maintain him at the standards he is used to!

Although this is clearly not a total equivalence- on the contrary, we “kill” him with money , and not with capital punishment, there is no heter to hurt or kill someone who has lost his money as if he was dead, and he can certainly count in a minyan etc.,-  the message is loud and clear: There is an element of murder in causing financial loss, and even more so total financial ruin.

In this week’s parsha, we learn about the prohibition of אונאה- overcharging or underpaying someone for land or other things ( this only applies if the victim is not aware that the agreed price is significantly above or below the market price.)

It also prohibits אונאת דברים – cheating or hurting someone with words.

This includes causing emotional harm to someone by insulting him, reminding him of bad elements of his past, etc, as well as giving him bad financial advice (literally cheating him with words.)

At the worst level, emotional harm is also considered a form of murder, as per the well-known rule that one who publicly shames his friends is considered as if he has killed him (Bava Metzia 58b.)

We see how careful we need to be to avoid causing people financial or emotional harm, and that one who does so, could be considered in a certain way as belonging to the worst category of people- those who spill the blood of man .