Rashi (DH Kadam vesilka) appears to contradict the gemara. Clearly the Meiri learns the gemara as even if the "pusher" himslef removes the ladder AFTER the man is in the pit, he is not liable to missas bes din. However, Rashi learns even if he removes the ladder BEFORE the fall. How can this be? Is Rashi referring to removing the ladder after the push but before the fall? This is quite a "dochak" pshat. But if not, what does rashi mean??? Thank you.
Aaron Glatt, Woodmere, NY
Your understanding of Rashi is correct. The perpetrator pushed his victim with one hand and removed the ladder from the pit a moment later with the other hand (see Margoliyos ha'Yam). I did not find in the Me'iri any allusion to an alternate translation of the Gemara's words. Of course, the same Halachah would apply if the perpetrator lifted the ladder *after* the victim hit the ground. However, the wording of the Gemara ("*Kadam* v'Silko," as opposed to just "Silko") implies that the perpetrator lifted it even before the victim hit the bottom.
Your question may be applied to the Gemara itself, though. Why did the Gemara mention the strange case of the perpetrator removing the ladder before the victim hit the bottom of the pit, rather than the simpler case of removing the ladder after the victim hit the bottom? The Halachah is certainly the same in both cases!
The answer is that it is obvious that the perpetrator cannot be killed for removing the ladder *after* the victim reached the bottom. We already know that if someone removes the ladder at that point the perpetrator remains exempt from punishment and there is no reason to differentiate between a case where the *perpetrator* removes the ladder at that point, and a case where *another person* removes it. On the other hand, if the perpetrator himself removes the ladder, and he does so before the victim reaches the bottom, there is reason to believe that he might be held liable. The original push can now be seen as an act of murder, since due to the removal of the ladder the *final result of the push* (sending a person to the bottom of a ladderless pit) is an act of murder. The Gemara teaches that even in such a case the perpetrator is not guilty of murder, since we view the act of pushing based on what its result *would have been* had nothing else changed until the victim reached the bottom (i.e. the ladder was not removed).
My difficulty with Rashi's understanding of the gemara as the rav outlined it remains. The push is not the murder weapon. It is the hevel at the bottom of the pit. I thought this is analagous to the case of sof chama lavo - where he is patur. If the gemara is learned as the Rav explained rashi, the pusher should be patur because it is sof hevel lavo - the hevel is not at the top of the pit - it will only be ppresent once he falls into the bottom of the pit. But even if this is incorrect - it is difficult to argue that rashi is talking about such an unlikely scenarion (pushing and removing the ladder almost simultaneously) when there is a simpler pshat as I outline in the next paragraph. Thus my difficulty with the pshat as exponded.
In my Meiri, the meiri clearly states the case is after he reaches the bottom. The chidush (I presumed) of this case is that even the pusher himself is liable - the same chidush as the next case of removing the tris. The cases appeared to me to be analogous - not necessarily that each is teaching a separate new chidush.
(a) If this would be "Sof Hevel Lavo," then even in your case, when the ladder was removed after the victim reached the bottom, the pusher should be Patur because of Sof Hevel Lavo (and not because of the presence of the ladder).
In truth, it is not considered Sof Hevel Lavo since the Hevel is already there when the victim is pushed to the bottom of the pit. Even though the pusher's hands are not dragging the victim to the bottom of the pit, the force of his push is dragging the victim there, so it is considered as if he has dragged the victim *into* Hevel.
(b) I am not sure where you saw that the Meiri argues, nor do I see why Rashi's case does not parallel, or is more "Dochek" than, the next case in the Gemara -- where someone shoots an arrow at a victim holding a shield, and *while the arrow is in the air* the shooter somehow removes the victim's shield, allowing the arrow to reach him.
(c) If the pusher removes the ladder *after* the victim reaches bottom it is obvious that this will not worsen his sin of pushing, since the act of pushing is already finished. It is no different from having a third party remove the ladder, as I wrote in my first reply. The Chidush is when the pusher removes the ladder *before* his act of pushing is finished (i.e. the victim has not yet reached bottom). Even in such a case he remains Patur.
You are right to point out that, interestingly, none of the Acharonim seem to discuss this Rashi.