[Yerav'am ben N'vat was the first king of the Northern kingdom (c.
950 BCE). His evil ways are clearly described in 1Kings 11 ff. He
is often held up as the paradigm of evil (e.g. MT Teshuvah 5:2)
- and his greatest sin was, evidently, leading the people towards
idolatry - mod.]
1. If a *Hakham*, seasoned in wisdom, a *Nasi* or an
*Av-Beit-Din* behaved poorly, we never ostracize him publicly -
unless he behaved like Yerav'am ben N'vat and his colleagues.
However, if he violates any other sin, we lash him privately. As
it says: "You shall stumble by day; the prophet also shall
stumble with you by night..." (Hoshea [Hosea] 4:5) [meaning] even
if he stumbles, cover him up like the night. They say to him:
"*Hikkaved v'shev b'veitekhah*" (lit. "Be content with your
glory, and stay at home" - Melakhim II [2Kings] 14:10).
Similarly, if a *Talmid Hakham* became liable for *Nidui*, the
Beit-Din is not allowed to rush to ostracize him; rather, they
evade the matter and [try to] avoid it. The righteous among our
sages took pride that they were never included [in a court] for
the purpose of ostracizing a *Talmid Hakham* - even though they
would be included for the purpose of adminstering lashes if he
became liable for [the punishment of] lashes. They would even be
included in a court for the purpose of adminstering *Makkat
Mardut* (lashes adminstered by the court for violating a Rabbinic
[Additional comment: ZN (Zvi Nosson )]: Take a
look in the Gemara Brachos in the sixth chapter, 35b, where
Yeravam is mentioned as the ultimate leader of the masses into
sinful situations. The gemara discusses over there the laws of
brachot [blessings], and which brachot to make over which foods.
In this specific gemara, the gemara mentions the name of Yeravam
when discussing the mussar aspect to making brachot before we
eat. The reasoning is that eating food without "permission" from
the Creator is tantamount to stealing. People who would see a
person eat without a bracha may assume that the transgressing
person acted with permission. Therefore, the gemara calls this
person a *Chaver L'Ish Mashchit*, a friend to a destructive
person. Such a person, the Talmud tells us, was Yeravam. However,
the following question was asked in my shiur: For the gemara to
say that Yeravam was a destructive person, that is logical, for
he was the king, and people would tend to follow their leader.
That is why the Jewish people sinned. However, we, basic nobodies
in the halachic world, have very little effect on our fellow
Jews. The answer to that is painfully obvious. For example, see
the Torah T'mima on Parchat Shelach, in the Parsha of Tzitzis
[Numbers 15:37-41], where he expounds upon the reason of wearing
the fringes out of the clothing. Simply put, people see them, and
they are reminded of the mitzvot. So too in this gemara. Even the
most normal person can have a very large effect on another Jew.
The Gemara chose Yeravam because he was a prime example of what
is liable to happen should we not follow the Halachot set forth
by the Creator.
Q1: Why do we protect the honor of these leaders who have "gone
sour" - isn't it improper to show them favoritism? (Especially
considering that their violations/poor behavior may have a worse
impact on the community due to their positions.)
YE (Yitz Etshalom): The Gemara (BT Mo'ed
Kattan 17a) states that this "protection" was legislated as a
specifically enacted ordinance at Usha.
Rambam (in Responsum #111) seems to associate this "protection"
with the general rule that we do not demote a public figure based
merely on "rumor". This is either because public figures are
subject to vilification in spite of their (possible) innocence -
or because acting on such rumors strengthens their power. In
either case, this would mean that we do not show them favoritism,
rather we are more concerned that the report which causes us to
consider action against them is trumped-up.
However, in our case, it seems clear that the offending sage
really has acted improperly - so we need to find other
What is the goal of *Nidui*? - 1) A deterrent (see TT 7:13 -
"...in order that sinners not abound..."); 2) Punishment for a
non-actionable crime (several of the examples in Rambam's list -
at TT 6:14 - are violations of the law that, for one reason or
another, are not actionable; e.g. tripping up a blind person); 3)
A rehabilitative step for the offender (as implied by the
effectiveness of *Teshuvah* in getting the ban lifted); 4)
*Kapparah* - forgiveness from God (as implied by the formula for
lifting the ban - *...Machul Lakh* - it is forgiven to you. See
also Tosafot Nedarim 7b s.v. Meshamet Nafshei).
It is possible that one or several of these factors is at play in
a given case of ostracism, depending on the circumstances. If
the crime is not publicly known (as were the crimes of Yerav'am
ben N'vat), then #1 is a non-starter. If the offense is not
really a crime - just poor behavior etc. - then #2 is irrelevant.
That leaves the more instructional/spiritual steps. For most
people, a private chastisement by the court would have little
impact and would not effect the necessary introspective process,
leading to rehabilitation, repentance, return and forgiveness. On
the other hand, if the elder of the court is lashed in front of
(and by) his colleagues and/or students - this is indeed shameful
and is (hopefully) shocking enough to "wake him up". Indeed, his
debasement in front of even a mini-court of three is likely as
strong, if not stronger, than the public shame of conventional
*Nidui* for a commoner. Even more - the fact that the *Nidui*
has to be hushed is itself a source of pain and shame for all
Q2: What is the meaning and relevance of the verse from
Melakhim II - *Hikkaved v'shev b'veitekhah*?
YE: Rashi (Mo'ed Kattan 17a s.v. Hikkaved) provides two
explanations: (a) *Hikkaved* - from *Kaved* - heavy. They tell
him to behave as one whose head is heavy (weighted down) (with
sorrow?shame?); (b) *Hikkaved* from *Kavod* - honor. They tell
him that the only way to preserve his honor is to stay at home.
(although these two explanations diverge in approach and
attitude, it should be noted that both words come from the same
root and are etymologically related - see Ben Yehuda IV pp.
2223-2224, BDB p. 458)
The relevance of this verse may be understood as follows: Keeping
in mind that Yerav'am, our villain, was the first King of
Yisra'el after the separation from the Solomonic kingdom - and
had done much to effect a strong separation. Amazia, the king of
Yehuda (the south), sent a message to Y'hoash, King of the
Yisra'el (the north), inviting him to meet. Y'hoash scorned the
invitation, hinting that Amazia would be endangered if such a
meeting took place. Y'hoash's words: *Hikkaved v'sheiv
b'veitekha* - (hold on to your glory and stay at home) - have a
touch of irony when recited by the court (for whom Y'hoash is a
villain - see 2Melakhim 13:11). In addition, the model here is
"stay at home and stay out of trouble" - which is a very powerful
statement to a public leader.
Q3: Why would the righteous sages be willing to participate in
a procedure which involved adminstering lashes - but not
As such, it is less of a "shame" for the scholar to have his
colleagues sentence him to lashes - based upon proper testimony -
and to get that over with - than to have them declare *Nidui*,
with its subjective components and its far-reaching social
What about R. Elazar b. Hycranus
(oft praised as the cream of R. Yohanan b. Zakai's students) who
was under a ban for much of his later years (the oven of akhnai,
[BT Bava Metzia' 59b] etc.). What about Aher [Elisha b. Avuya -
YE: Regarding R. Elazar - Kessef Mishneh proposes that his
ostracism was also a private one - or that this was an
exceptional case and, in order to keep divisiveness from
increasing among the Jewish people, he was publicly banned. I
don't know that Aher was ever ostracized - but, if so, that is
more easily explained. Since he was an apostate and an evildoer
(BT Hagiga 15a-b), whatever protection we afford for sages would
no longer be appropriate for him. In addition, following the
reasoning above (at Q1), a private *Nidui* would not effect any
of the desired results. Perhaps even public *Nidui* would be
useless at that point.