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Pilegesh B'givah -

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Goal: The chanichim should understand why Pilgesh BGivah was such a horrible event because it happened in a Jewish town by Jewish people, and how absence of leadership in Am Israel at this time allowed this to happen.


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 #17: Perek 19

Goal: The chanichim should understand why Pilgesh BGivah was such a horrible event because it happened in a Jewish town by Jewish people, and how absence of leadership in Am Israel at this time allowed this to happen.

Intro: This story follows along after the story of Pesel Micha, as one of the 2 last stories of total anarchy and falling apart of the Shoftim cycle. As we said before, these stories either happened choronologically after Shimshon, or actually they could have happened at any point in this time period, even earlier, but Shmuel puts it here at the end of the book to emphasize what happens when there is no king.

In fact, no one in this story has a name!! This could also be a literary device, saying that names are not important and a time frame is not important , since this story could have happened to anyone, and perhaps multiple times, during the time period of Shoftim to stress the anarchy. This is how everyone acted then, not just specific people/

Perek 19:

1- Starts off by telling us again that this happened in a time where there was no king time of anarchy. So this type of tragedy could happen.

An Ish Levi from Har Efraims pilegesh (concubine) leaves him and goes back to her fathers house in Bet Lechem in Yehudah. He travels there 4 months later to convince her to come back to him. This is the opposite of what we had in Pesel Micha, where there was a levi from Yehudah area traveling to Har Efraim.

1. Everyone is wandering around, there are no set nachalot.

2. Again we have people from leadership tribes who should be leaders a Levi from Yehudah, not doing their job and stepping up as leaders.

He travels there with 2 donkeys (one for her to travel back on).

His Father in Law is overjoyed to see him there, invites him in, stays for 3 days, then a 4th, then overnight, the until the middle of the day (starts off with month day- hour countdown until leaving).

Notice that the Pilegesh is left out totally from the dialogue, as if she doesnt exist, only relationship between father in law and Ish Levi. She is seen only as an object.

Gittin 6b: Why did Pilegesh leave? Kicked out because either she left a fly or hair in food, he got angry at her so she left. And because he got angry it culminates in the terrible outcome of what will happen in this story, Gemara learns from this that someone should not instill fear in his household. We see from here that the husband is already abusive. The Pilegesh is seen as object (this theme will continue through story).

11- They leave close to nightfall and now it is soon night and they need shelter. Lots of emphasis in pesukim between day and night, that night is when bad things can happen. (Spending the night, arising early, sun being low need to turn in, have to get to safety before nightfall. Shows the anarchy of the time of sefer Shoftim; uncertainty, darkness Also that scared at night because obviously gangsters and bandits walking around!! The city is not safe at night because of horrible crimes that are happening there are no leaders!

12- Davka dont stay in Yevus bc its a non Jewish city!!! Theyre doing the right thing, staying away from non Jews, because they want to stay in a Jewish city where theyll be safe. This is so ironic because instead, a horrible thing happens when they stay in a Jewish city.

15-19- They come to Givah, a Jewish city in Binyamin, and are in town square but no one is inviting them in. Finally an old man from Har Efrayim comes in from the sadeh-field and asks them what theyre doing here. Ish Levi says hes from Har Efrayim, and theyre coming from Bet Lechem and going to Bet Hashem, and no one has invited them in.

What do we see here? Try to get the chanichim to pick it up from the text.

No Jews offering them hospitality and they davka came here to a Jewish town, and not to a non Jewish city. Its also ironic, because who is this guy who is helping them? An old man, the remnant of an old morality, an older generation, it seems that none of the young people are offering hospitality.

Also, where is this guy from? Hes not even from Givah, hes also from Har Efrayim, so hes practicing hachnasat orchim but hes a stranger in the town, not a local, its a zar staying by another zar. The locals apparently would not offer hospitality. Or perhaps hes only helping them because they are from the same place but usually he wouldnt help them. What does this say about the morals of this town or of this time period? There is no unity!

You can parallel this to Pesel Micha, where people from Har Efrayim offered hospitality to the levi and to the spies from Dan. But in Binyamin its a foreign concept.

Also, ironic that an old man is coming from the field to the city. Ironic, because a field implies openness, danger. A city is security. Hes going from danger to security, but horrible events happen when hes in the city.

Also the Ish Levi tells the old man that he has teven vmispoh straw and food for his animals and only requires a place to sleep. In Breishit 24:32, as part of Rivkas super hospitality to Eliezer, he is given teven vmispoh for his camels. In Shoftim, davka the staple objects of hospitality, the Ish Levi doesnt want to take from anyone, he brought his own. He doubts that anyone would even offer him these basic staples of hospitality.

20-27- But old man invites them in, feeds them, etc. Then reaction from people in the city. A mob appears at the door and demands they send out the male guest so that they can rape him.

Old man bargains with crowd and offers his daughter and the mans Pilegesh instead. While negotiating, the Ish Levi (apparently thinking that the deal the Old man was trying to do was not going to work) throws his Pilegesh to the crowd. They rape her all night and only at daybreak (balot hashachar) does she escape.

Lifnot boker- near morning, she climbs up and collapses at door of Ish Levi calling her master for help; adoneha, ad haor, until it was light. We see here again that there is symbolism between day and night, that the pasuk stresses it was in the morning, with light, that she escaped, the danger only existed at night.

27- Ish levi gets up, opens door to leave to go on his way, and sees Pilegesh collapsed on entrance to house, her hands on the entrance. He says, get up, lets go, but theres no answer. Tragic pose, the helpless Pilgesh after being beaten all night, climbs up the stairs to the house collapsing at entrance. Its heartbreaking, but look at Ish Levis reaction.

Ask the chanichim: What they think about Ish Levi and his actions? How does he treat the Pilegesh? What are your reactions to this incident?

Firstly, he treats Pilegesh as an object. Hes called her master in the text because this is how he treated her. He has no problem with saving himself by sacrificing her life a cowardly act.

Then he sleeps through the night (says in pasuk he gets up in the morning) while she is being tortured!! Doesnt attempt any rescue mission at all!! Then wants to leave as if nothing has happened! Trips over her body and says get up, lets go as if nothing happened!!!

29- Takes Pilegeshs body chops it up into 12 pieces and sends a piece to each of the 12 tribes. To say, nothing like this atrocity has ever happened in Am Israel and we must have a response.

The Ish levi is acting as if he was wronged!! Ignoring what he did to the Pilegesh. Worse then the Zaken, who offers daughter, becacuse the Ish Levi is a Levi!! Leviim are supposed to be the moral, religious leadership, he should have given mussar to the crowd thats his job!!

Parallel to story of Pesel Micha. House of Efrayim guy surrounded by enemy, and in both cases, the Efrayim person is helpless and cant fend off the crowd (The Zaken and Micha). But in Michas case, they only wanted to rob him, here wanted to rape and kill people.

A Jewish Town = Sedom:

What obvious story is this parallel to?? Lot and his guests in Sedom!! This shows the anarchy, that a Jewish city has reached the level and actions of Sedom.

Parallels: Breishit 19 versus Shoftim 19

  1. Both cases happen near night, berev vs vetavo lehem hashemesh

  2. Vayesuru- turn; In giveh they turn in there, Lot tells the angels to turn to his house.

  3. In both stories they wash their feet, eat and drink it up.

  4. Anshei Hair in both cases surround the house.

  5. Demand in both stories to throw out the men guests so that they can rape them.

  6. The host goes out (old man and Lot) in both cases to plead with crowd.

  7. Both hosts say do not do this evil, and offer 2 young girls, either 2 daughters, or 1 daughter and pilegesh, to do with them whatever is tov beiniechem.

  8. The mob does not listen in each case! In one the angels intervene and smite the mob with blindness, with Shofrim, the Ish Levi acts and throws out the Pilegesh.

Ramban Breishit 19:18: No, it is different then what happened in Sedom. Key differences:

  1. In Sedom it was the whole entire town (minaar vead zaken) who attacked, while in Givah it was just the gangsters (bnei beliel), not the whole town.

  2. In Sedom this was national policy, anyone offer anyone hospitality, the punishment is that we rape the guests. In Givah the people were just perverted and a group of them wanted to go and rape the guest. Not bc this was the town policy punishment for housing guests. So less bad then Sedom.

****However, the main message here is a literary one. Shmuel writes the story of Pilegesh bGiva using terms from the story of Sefom to show what a Jewish town has turned into!! This happened because there was no central leader. Discuss with the chanichim: How would having a king has prevented this from happening?

Also, what does it say about this town if they adopted Sedom minhagim (raping and attacking their guests)? This also can show the avodah zara influence. When you dont kick out the other nations which are immoral (which the 7 nations were not all non Jewish nations, just to be clear on that) and who are performing immoral avodah zara rituals burning their children, deviant sexual practices, then you too will get influenced and start forgetting Torah values. This ties into our original message in some of the earlier shiruim we dont just need strong central leadership, but religious leadership (like Yehoshua and later on, David) who will push us religiously, morally and ethically, as well as lead us physically,

Sicha: Ask the chanichim how they feel about this story? About the actions of the old man, the Ish Levi and the town? Is there anyway to justify what they did? (They were terrified, etc). What would you have done?

Does it make a difference that it was in a Jewish town or would it be horrible either way? Is it worse that this happened after the travelers davka went to a Jewish city to stay over a non-Jewish city?

What do you think about what the Ish Levi did with the Pilegeshs body? Why would he chop it up and send it? Couldnt he just send an announcement about what happened? Why did he want to shock the tribes?

(Were not trying to say that the Anshei Givah werent the #1 bad guys in the story, but that the old man and the Levi also didnt act appropriately. Everyone was bad, just on different levels).

Compare: Baruch Goldstein killing the Arabs in the Mosque, Assassination of Yitzchak Rabin. There are terrible things that happen in our land under Jewish supervision. How do we respond when Jews do terrible things? How do we protest?

The Ish Levi (even though he was also guilty) wanted to show the other tribes that this horrible thing happened, and that as an Am and a Jewish nation a mamlechet cohanim vgoi kadosh, we can NEVER let these types of horrific things happen as we are supposed to be an ohr lagoyim! We have to set a good example in order to spread G-ds message to the world. Therefore, we have to come down double as strongly when Jews commit immorality then we would if we were an ordinary nation. Thats why you chop up the pilegesh and send out body parts you have to shocked this cannot happen and be done by Jews in Eretz Israel!

Ask the chanichim if they agree, what they think

The next shiur will focus more on how Am Israel did react and if we think this was a proper reaction.

Recap: Pilegesh bGivah was a horrible event that happened in a Jewish city It was an act of Sedom happening in a Jewish town. This is a direct consequence of the lack of leadership in Am Israel at that time and shows the anarchy and immorality that can set in when there are no strong leaders for a nation.

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Machal Shiur #17: Perek 19

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