Yiftach's Downfall -

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Resource Goal

Goal: The chanichim will discuss the downfall of Yiftach, though debating the issue of whether or not he sacrificed his daughter (and why!) and the massacre of Bnei Efrayim.

Resource Contents

Written by- Sarah Gordon

Many of the ideas from these shiruim are adapted from the book "Shofet HaShoftim" by Yisroel Rozenson, published by Machon Herzog.

Machal Shiur 13: Perek 11-12

Goal: The chanichim will discuss the downfall of Yiftach, though debating the issue of whether or not he sacrificed his daughter (and why!) and the massacre of Bnei Efrayim.

Yiftachs Neder:

: Yiftach promises to Hashem the first thing that comes out of his house towards him.

Ralbag: He thought it would be an animal and he would sacrifice it.

Yisrael Rozenson (author of Shofet Hashoftim): No, he meant only to sacrifice a human when he made his neder. Since the wording of the pasuk implies someone that will go out of his house to greet him. Who would go out to greet him besides a human?

34- He wins battle and comes home and hs daughter comes out to greet him with musical instruments.

Yiftach tears his clothes and blames her for making him fall and says has to do neder bc swore to Hashem and cant take it back.

Ask the chanichim: Why would Yiftach make this Neder? And once its his daughter, why would he go through with it? What do we see from his reaction? Who does he blame for this tragedy? But who really should be the victim?? How does this tie into what we saw with Yiftach trying to do everything lifnei Hashem? Do you think this is what Hashem wants? What does this show about Yiftach?

There is a lot of irony in this story:

  1. Yiftach is in his bayit, hes finally settled, unlike his childhood when he was kicked out of his rightful home and made to wander. His daughter comes out to greet him from war with music and tambourines. This sounds parallel to Miriam and the women after Kriat Yam Suf, and to the girls who come out to greet David and Shaul after their successful battles, and with the aftermath of Pilegesh bGivaah where the girls dance before the Bnei Binyamin (Shoftim 21:21). Its a happy time for Yiftach who is finally settled, and should be accepted now as a good leader, but his whole world comes crashing down because of his neder (or stubbornness to not repeal it). Its a horrible tragedy that Yiftach brings on himself, ruining all he has accomplished!

  2. Yiftach tries so hard to be king and moshiah, its his biggest dream, but at the end destroys his own line of successors, ensuring that he will never be able to be king by killing his only daughter. (The Pasuk stresses that she was an only child and had no children).Blames daughter but really its his fault.

  3. Also we see how his koach hadibbur which helped him in negotiations, now gets him in the end, with his verbal neder.

Yiftach and Eli:

Compare Yiftachs reaction to his daughter coming out with Elils reaction when he is told that his 2 sons will be killed (Shmuel Alef, ). Eli accepts G-ds word without mourning. And his sons were guilty. But that was instigated by G-d. Here, its the opposite, Yiftach instigates this when his daughter is innocent and blames her!

Did neder take place? Is she really killed?

37-39: She goes to mountains for 2 months to cry and then comes back and Yiftach fulfills neder.

Radak: He made her a house in isolation and she lived there alone from people and never married. (Sounds like a convent).

Taanit 4a: He really sacrificed her and killed her.

(It could be avodah zara was so prevalent, that they would use avodah zara methods (human sacrifice) even for Avodat Hashem).

Abarbanel: Not a convent like the Christians, but she went into spiritual isolation, which is negative, because ideally to succeed spiritually you need a chevra/group of friends (Great Machal tie in here).

Could the neder have been annulled?

Radak (quotes Tanchuma):

  1. RYochanan: Yiftach should have given money instead of sacrificing her.

  2. Reish Lakish: He didnt even have to give money as the neder wouldnt be chal (wouldnt be applicable) on something that you cannot even sacrifice, like a blemished korban or a human!!

  3. Because Yiftach was not a learned person, he sinned and sacrificed (literally or metaphorically by putting her in isolation) his daughter. He should have gone to the Navi at that time Pinchas the Cohen Gadol and gotten him to annul the neder. Nedarim can be annulled!! And Pinchas, when he heard of the horrible thing that was going to happen to Yiftachs daughter should have approached Yiftach to annul it. But neither of them wanted to give up kavod and go to the other person, even if it meant that Yiftachs daughter would suffer.

    1. Yiftach: I should go to a hedyot? Im the king here!

    2. Pinchas: I should go to an am haaretz? Im the chief rabbi!

They were both punished for this Yiftach got leprosy and lost all his limbs which were buried in different cities (he was buried in arei gilaad). Pinchas loses his ruach hakodesh.

** We see here again the lack of leadership shown. What is negative about both Pinchas and Yiftach here? What negative leadership traits do we see in this behavior? Also its weird that Pinchas is not mentioned in the peshat of the Tanakh if he was alive then. He was a huge important person in Tanach and is not mentioned here at all its weird. Seems that he wasnt stepping up as the leader he could have been, maybe if he had stepped up more he would have actually have made it into the sefer (like Ploni Almoni in Rut who doesnt get his real name in because doesnt step up to redeem Rut)!

Rav Kook: Mishpatei Kohen shinlamed chet: If youre a king, you cant annul your neder and Yiftach thought he had that status as a king.

**Granted these are all apologetic answers. Ask the chancihim if they think any of these answers step up to critique. The answer could be no, which is fine. Ask them then how they conclude about the Yiftach story it could be just that he sinned big time.

Yiftach tries to do things lifnei Hashem, but here he thought that do follow lifnei Hashem would be to not annul his neder, even if it was halakhicaly ok! He wanted to push himself to the extreme even when Hashem would have wanted him to annul the neder to save his daughter! Discuss with the chanichim: A lot of times people put religious extremism or misguided religious views before thinking what Hashem would really want we see this in abuses of other religious like with suicide bombers who believe what they are doing is mandated by the Koran (whether or not this is true), where they twist religious to support horrible things. What does this say about Yiftach? How do you feel about what he did? What is the correct way to live your life lifnei Hashem

The End of Yiftach: Perek 12:

Shevet Efrayim comes to Yiftach and says: Why didnt you invite us to come fight! Were now going to burn your house down!!

Ask the chanichim: What would you do in response?

Yiftach: I did ask you to come and you decided not to! Dont start up with me!

Then he doesnt just get revenge, but systematically tracks down anyone from Efrayim (you could tell who they were because they had an accent- they couldnt pronounce S so said sibolet instead of shibolet) and killed them all out.

6- Not only kills, but uses word, vayishechtu slaughtered it was a massacre! Kills 42 000 Jews.

Yiftach vs Gidon when dealing with Tribal Issues:

Compare this to what Gidon does when Efrayim complains there (Shoftim 8:1-3). Gidon swallows his pride and appeases them verbally, he uses diplomacy.

This is Yiftachs strength we see how he tried to talk to Amon! But he doesnt use it here! Why doesnt he use diplomacy?

(Also we see that Efrayim is constantly the problem shevet here. They never help and always have complaints!! With Devorah, Gidon and now here! Maybe Yiftach just had enough with them! But was this the right response as a Shofet? To wipe out a shevet??)

Ask the chanichim:

Why does he start a civil war? (Based on what we have seen about Yiftach so far)

-It could be that Yiftach never gets out of his old mindset. From the beginning, he hung out with gangsters hes a mob boss. And war is what he is good at. Someone says he will destroy his house, hes going to get them.

-His kavod has been insulted and Yiftach hates that, scarred because of what happened to him as a kid.

-Or maybe traumatized about what he did to his daughter!

Also, Yiftachs house is threatened. Finally Yiftach is settled in his house, unlike as a kid when he was pushed out. This could bring back bad memories for Yiftach. But now he has the power to stop them from burning his house, but takes it to the next level Im going to get revenge on all of you!!!

Could be also brings back fresh memories of last thing to happen at bayit the neder with his daughter and after this he goes downhill. Or this is a direct consequence due to how he dealt with the last challenge on his bayit, by sacrificing his daughter!

Unlike Gidon who uses diplomacy, Yiftach resorts to killing. Focuses on that Efrayim didnt help me, not concerned with the nation like Gidon was. Good leader vs bad leader.

Irony: The only time Jews succeed in wiping out people are not the other nations but when they kill each other!!! Yiftach is starting a whole war not for Hashem and certainly not for the good of Am Israel, but solely for his own kavod!!! Compare this to what Am Israel are supposed to be doing at the beginning of Shoftim attacking the 7 nations and Avodah Zara culture but they dont! They only kill out each other!

We see here a parallel to Avimelech and with what Avimelech does at the end to the Anshei Gilad and Shechem. He goes out on a revenge rampage, burning down cities and towns (again with the burning like here where the ppl from Efrayim want to burn down Yiftachs house!)

Though we saw in the last shiur the similarities between Yiftach and Avimelech, we saw that Yiftach seemed to be better, seemed to have broken away, he wants to be the moshiah, tries to be the good shofet.

But now after destroying his lineage by what he did to his daughter he turns back and returns to his youth and gangster days, ending up just like Avimelech, someone who kills people and gets revenge, a murderer, not a good shofet. This is the tragedy of Yiftach.

Recap: Though Yiftach has good diplomacy skills and tries to be the leader, and tries to do things lifnei Hashem, after messing up with the neder with his daughter, he turns back to being a gangster, especially in how he deals terribly with the Bnei Efrayim.

Resource Comments

Machal Shiur 13: Perek 11-12

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