[Avodah] "V'katsosah ess kapah"

Zvi Lampel zvilampel at gmail.com
Tue Feb 20 18:43:14 PST 2024

("And her palm is trimmed" is probably an unprecedented translation of
"V'katsosah ess kapah" (Devarim 25:12).  But the usual translations, such
as "and you shall cut off her hand" do not address the fact that a "kaf" is
usually a palm, and "you shall" is almost always written without the letter
"hey" [see HaEmek Davar loc.cit.]. But this is besides the point I want to

The one to whom the posuk assigns this consequence is a woman who, to save
her husband from the blows of another man, grabs that man's genitals (an
unnecessarily humiliating and life-threatening move).

The Mishnah (BK 8:1) and Gemara thereon (BK 28a) teach us that this is a
reference to /boshess/--monetary compensation for causing the man's
humiliation. Rambam, Hilchos Chovail Umazik 1:9, states this as the
understanding of the posuk as well. In the introduction to his Mishnah
commentary, he states that this, along with "ayin tachas ayin" etc., is a
payrush mekubal miSinai. And he uses this to illustrate a false prophet who
gives an understanding of a posuk different from the oral law's explanation,

...even if the literal meaning of the posuk supports him, saying, for
example, that the Torah's statement, "V'kotsatah ess kapah" really means
cutting off her hand, and it is not a fine placed on the humiliator, as it
comes through the kabalah.

Moreover, Rambam states, "We have not found any dissent concerning
Scripture's statement, "V'kotsatah ess kapah" that it is /kofer/.

But this is a problem. In the Sifri (293:12), whereas Rebbi Yehuda learns
through a gezeyra shava that the consequence is /mammon/, the Tanna Kamma
says that the posuk is stating that the halacha is talking about a literal
amputation of her hand. Since she is endangering the life of her husband's
enemy, one is obligated to cut off her hand, if not kill her, since she is
a /rodef/.

So there /is/ an opinion that the phrase is meant literally. How could the
Rambam deny that?

Not only that, but in three places (Sefer HaMitzvos, mitzvas asaei 247, lav
292, Hilchos Rotzeach 1:5-7) the Rambam himself poskens so and, citing the
Sifri, cites our posuk as the basis!

The Tanna Kamma and Rebbi Yehuda are not arguing halacha, because they are
not referring to the same scenario.* The Tanna Kamma, as explained, is
talking about the halacha for the situation /before/ the woman is brought
to Bes Din, when it is possible to prevent the injury. Rebbi Yehuda is
talking about the halacha the Bes Din must follow /after/ the injury
occurred (and the victim survived). This is not a whimsical application of
okimtos. It is undeniable. Mammon is only relevant after the fact of the
crime, and cutting off the woman's hand to prevent the injury is only
relevant before she is brought to Bes Din.

If there is a machlokes, it would only be over which of both accepted
halachos the posuk is referring to, assuming it can only tolerate one of
them. But we see that the Rambam uses the posuk for both.

When the Rambam says that it is mekubal miSinai that "V'kotsatah ess kapah"
refers to /boshes/, he means as it applies to the consequence issued by
Beis Din after the injury was inflicted.

And when the Rambam says that if a claimant to prophecy "says that the
Torah's statement, 'V'kotsatah ess kapah' really means cutting off her
hand, and it is not a fine placed on the humiliator, as it comes through
the kabalah, the clause "and it is not a fine placed on the humiliator" is
part of what the claimant is explicitly saying, making the context the
consequence Bes Din should apply after the injury was inflicted; and that
is the denial of the payrush miSinai that in that scenario, the consequence
we learn from ''V'kotsatah ess kapah'' is not a cutting off of her hand,
but monetary compensation for busha.

*This is despite the fact that normally "Ploni omare" following a statement
(which is the way Rebbi Yehuda's opinion is presented in this Sifri)
signifies a dissenting opinion.

Zvi Lampel
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