1) ONE WHO BLASPHEMES ONLY IN HIS HEART
QUESTION: The Gemara asks that according to Rebbi Yochanan's explanation of the Rabanan, one who bows down to an idol is considered to have done an action and therefore is obligated to bring a Korban Chatas if he bowed b'Shogeg. However, Rebbi Yochanan says that if a person is Megadef b'Shogeg, he does *not* bring a Korban Chatas. Why does Rebbi Yochanan not consider the movement of his lips as an action? Rava answers that the sin of Megadef is "in the heart." RASHI (DH Ho'il) explains that the Megadef's liability is based on his *intention* to curse Hash-m. If he says the same words, but when he says those words he has in mind that he is cursing someone other than Hash-m, he is not obligated to bring a Korban.
The Gemara's discussion about whether the person is Chayav to bring a Korban focuses on a case of Shogeg. However, the word "Chayav" also means that the person receives the punishment prescribed by the Torah (in this case, Misah) if he does the sin intentionally. According to Rashi, it seems that a Megadef is always able to avoid the death penalty. He simply can tell the Beis Din that when he said his blasphemous words, he was referring to someone else and not to Hash-m!
(a) The MAHARSHA in Bava Basra (119a) explains that this is not how Beis Din functions. He discusses the fact that Tzelofchad wanted to teach the people not to desecrate Shabbos by showing them a graphic example of what happens to such a person. However, he did not want to transgress the word of Hash-m by actually desecrating Shabbos. He therefore decided to do a "Melachah she'Einah Tzerichah l'Gufah" -- a "Melachah that is not needed for itself." (For the various definitions of "Melachah she'Einah Tzerichah l'Gufah," see Insights to Shabbos 93:3 and Chagigah 10:2.) Tzelofchad therefore did such an act, which looked like a real Melachah; the only difference between his act and a real Melachah was the intention in his heart. Consequently, he would achieve his purpose: the death penalty without having desecrated Shabbos.
How, though, could they kill an innocent man? The Maharsha answers that they did not kill an innocent man. Beis Din does not look at one's intentions, but rather solely at one's actions. Even if one says that the act he did was a Melachah she'Einah Tzerichah l'Gufah, he is put to death. If the act has the appearance of Chilul Shabbos, then it is Chilul Shabbos. This is supported by the fact that a person is punished with death by Beis Din only if he accepted the warning from the witnesses and said, "I am doing it anyway!"
(b) The MAHARSHAL in YAM SHEL SHLOMO (Bava Kama 8:23) writes that a person who hits another on Shabbos with intention to draw blood and weaken his victim is Chayav Misah for Chilul Shabbos. The Maharshal asks, how does Beis Din known that his intention was to draw blood and weaken his victim? He answers that the attacker confessed that this was his intent. However, there is a rule that a person cannot indict himself as a Rasha. How, then, can this person be Chayav Misah based on his own word? The Maharshal explains that since he is already considered a Rasha because he hit his friend, he does not give himself the status of a Rasha with his admission. According to the Maharshal's explanation, a Megadef should be able to say later that he never meant to curse Hash-m, but that he was referring to someone else when he used the name of Hash-m.
The Maharshal's reasoning seems to be debatable. When a Megadef says that he did not mean to curse Hash-m but just used His name to represent something or someone else, perhaps Beis Din may dismiss his claim since most people say what they mean. In contrast, when a person is fighting with another person on Shabbos, Beis Din has no basis on which to assume that the perpetrator intended to weaken his victim by drawing blood by striking him, and therefore his claim that he had no such intention should be accepted.
However, at the end of the Maharshal's comments, he gives an additional answer and says that it is usually the intention of one who hits another person to weaken his opponent by drawing blood. It seems that in his first answer, he is not judging the case at all by appearances, but rather by whether Beis Din knows for certain that the person is Chayav Misah. Accordingly, it seems that the Maharshal, in his first answer, does not agree with the Maharsha, and he maintains that a Megadef may say that he was not talking about Hash-m. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) AGADAH: THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN REBBI AKIVA AND TURNUSRUFUS
QUESTION: The Gemara records a dialogue between Rebbi Akiva and the wicked Turnusrufus.
Turnusrufus asked Rebbi Akiva, "What is today from other days?"
Rebbi Akiva responded, "And how is a man different than other men?"
Turnusrufus countered, "My master wants," to which Rebbi Akiva replied, "Shabbos also is because my Master wants."
Turnusrufus explained, "This is what I meant to say: Who told you that today is Shabbos?"
Rebbi Akiva responded, "The river Sabatyon proves so, a Ba'al Ov proves so, his father's grave proves so."
What was the meaning behind this cryptic conversation?
(a) RASHI explains that Turnusrufus was bothered with why Shabbos was different for the Jews from the other days of the week. Rebbi Akiva countered, "Why should you, Turnusrufus the ruler, be more elevated in status than other men?" The obvious answer was that it was the emperor's will that Turnusrufus serve as the procurator of Yerushalayim. Rebbi Akiva said that this is the same reason why Shabbos is elevated; Shabbos is the day chosen by the Master of the word to be special.
Turnusrufus responded that he meant to ask how the Jews know that they are observing the real day of Shabbos and not a different day. Rebbi Akiva replied that there are three indications that the Shabbos that the Jews observe is the correct day: the river Sabatyon (also called "Sambatyon" and "Shabasyon"; see MAHARATZ CHAYOS and ETZ YOSEF) rests only on Shabbos, a Ba'al Ov cannot make the dead come to him on Shabbos, and the fact that smoke rises from the grave of Turnusrufus' father at all times except on Shabbos.
(b) The MAHARSHA explains that Turnusrufus' question was comprised of three parts:
"How do you know that the day of the week you observe as Shabbos is the day Hash-m rested from His creation of the world?"
"How do you know that He commanded you to rest on this day?"
"How do you know that this day will be a day of rest in the future as well?"
Rebbi Akiva answered all three questions. The river Sabatyon shows that Hash-m rested on this day. The fact that the Ba'al Ov cannot raise the dead on Shabbos shows that this is the day Hash-m designated for us to desist from work. The fact that smoke stops rising from the grave of Turnusrufus' father on Shabbos shows that Shabbos is also significant in the spiritual world.
(c) The BEN YEHOYADA comments on the wording of Turnusrufus' first question, "Mah Yom mi'Yomayim?" Although Rashi translates the question as, "What is today from other days," the literal translation is, "What is today from the other two days (Yomayim)?" The Ben Yehoyada explains that Turnusrufus was asking about two specific days: Sunday and Friday. There were pagan religions which observed their "day of rest" on Sunday, and the Ben Yehoyada suggests that there was possibly another nation (pre-Islam) which observed its "day of rest" on Friday. Accordingly, Turnusrufus asked, "Why is your choice for a day of rest not the same as the other two days of rest proclaimed by other religions, Sunday or Friday?" (Y. MONTROSE)