Lifnei iver

Lifnei iver

Lifnei iver (]

"Lifnei iver" is one of the offenses which the Talmud argues to be punishable by the Cherem. The "stumbling block" as a distinct, and negative, concept is also established in Christian theology: in Catholicism it is known as creating scandal.

Biblical Context

The regulation in the appears among a brief miscellany of regulations concerning ethical behaviour, covering issues such as consideration of the deaf, malicious gossip, not bearing grudges, the impartiality of justice, and leaving gleanings for the poor demonstrate similar concerns against exploitating individuals, but focus on different issues.

In Jewish Oral Law

Many halakhic principles are derived from "lifnei iver", the oral Torah expanding its ramifications beyond a purely literal interpretation. In classical rabbinical literature, "lifnei iver" is seen as a figuratively expressed prohibition against misleading people; the Sifra (a midrash from the time of the Mishnah) argues that since the recipient of advice would be metaphorically "blind" in regard to its accuracy, they would metaphorically "stumble" if the advice was damaging or otherwise bad [Sifra de-vei Rav, Kedoshim 2:14] .

The Talmud extends the principle to also prohibit the facilitation of a sinful act by another individual, where the person in question would otherwise have lacked the opportunity or means to have committed the sin ["Avodah Zarah" 6b] ; for example, the Talmud takes the regulation to prohibit the giving of a cup of wine to someone who has taken the nazirite vow (which includes a vow to not partake in wine or grape products). The Talmud expresses caution in regard to figurative interpretations of this principle, emphasising that the law only really covers those situations where the other individual could not possibly have committed the transgression without the aid of the first person violating the "lifnei iver" rule; this is known in the Talmud as "two sides to the river" ("Trei Ivrah deNaharah") - if, for example, the person who took a nazirite vow had been about to take a glass of wine anyway, then handing them a glass of wine would not transgress "lifnei iver".

"Lifnei iver" as a principle recurs many times in more practical applications of Jewish law. For example, the Shulchan Aruch, which traditional Judaism views as authoritative, warns a father to not physically chastise older children, as this will only entice them to hit back, which in its view would be a capital offence ["Shulchan Aruch", "Yoreh Deah" 240:20] .

Academic Perspectives

According to the editors of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, the prevailing notion in ancient middle eastern cultures was that bodily ailments and defects, such as blindness and loss of hearing, as well as circumstantial ailments, such as poverty, were punishments for sin ["Jewish Encyclopedia"] ; the blind, together with cripples and lepers, were outcast by society and were prevented from entering towns, becoming paupers as a result ["Jewish Encyclopedia"] . The biblical provision of laws to protect individuals afflicted in this manner would have had the effect, perhaps intended, of reducing the prejudice they suffered ["Jewish Encyclopedia"] .

According to "Peake's commentary on the Bible", the curses on Mount Ebal were possibly intoned.



* cite book
last = Hoffman
first = Yair
title = Misguiding the Perplexed: The Laws of Lifnei Iver
publisher = Israel Book Shop
date = 2004
location = Lakewood, NJ
isbn = 1-931681-59-7
oclc = 56559095

* cite web
last = Alcorn
first = Randy
title = A Stumbling Block: What it is and What it isn't
url =
publisher = Eternal Perspective Ministries
date = 2006
location = Sandy, OR

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