In this week's parsha we are taught a halacha that seems to defy common logic - the halacha of "eidim zomimin." Eidim Zomimin are witnesses who testify, for example, that they witnessed a murder. If prior to carrying out the supposed murderer's death sentence two other witnesses testify that the original two witnesses were at a different location at the time of the murder, the original two receive the intended punishment of their victim. However, if the death sentence has already been meted out, there is no retribution to the original two false witnesses. The Torah expresses this unique halacha with the words "Ka'asher zamam la'asos," which the Talmud explains to mean that it is only as they "intended" to do, but not if it was already done. This halacha has led to much discussion among the commentators as to the reason behind this seeming paradox.
The Maharal explains that its understanding lies at the end of the verse - "u'viarta harah mikirbecha," "and you shall destroy the evil from your midst." The source of evil in this case is the intent to harm the individual the witnesses falsely testify against. It is only a thought, there is no tangible action on their part that brings about the murder. A thought exists as long as it is there. Once it stops it no longer exists. Therefore, in the case of eidim zomimin, the Torah is telling us to get rid of the evil as long as it has a presence. Once the sentence is carried out - their evil intent ceases, and the commandment to remove the evil is no longer pertinent. The technicalities of the halacha reveal a much deeper reality of the power of thought. The Maharal explains:
"The real reason for this law is something wondrous. One must understand the words "k'asher zamam" itself. The intention to do something to someone else turns back on himself. When the person was already killed, there is no thought to turn back on the original person."
The Maharal goes on to say that according to the Torah, a misplaced intention to harm another will always turn back on its origin. We find this explicitly by the evil Haman. The verse in Megilas Esther (9:25) states "But when she (Esther) appeared before the king, the evil thought intended for the Jews returned on his (Haman's) head..." Similarly the Talmud tell us in tractate Shabbos (97a) that one who suspects others of a misdeed (incorrectly) will be stricken himself. The Maharal explains with a parable of two boats, one trying to sink the other. If the second boat is stronger than the boat trying to ram it and bring it down, the result will be that the first one will sink. A misplaced thought, will turn on its originator.
At this time of year, the above brings to mind the statement of our sages in tractate Yoma (29a) "Hihurei aveira kashu mei'aveira," "Thoughts of sin are worse than sin itself." A thought can be worse than the act. Some commentaries explain that thought originates from the essence of a person, from the holiest within him, and it is defiled by that bad thought. Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner tell us that although the process of repentance requires regret for the action of sin and acceptance not to repeat it in the future, it is praiseworthy for one to uproot the source of what brought about the possibility of sin itself. We learn this from the fact that Rosh Hashana is on the day, according to one opinion "man" came into being, or first day of creation of world whose purpose was to serve mankind. And from the fact that the attribute of Teshuva/repentance is rooted in the Name of G-d- the Name that speaks to the creation of the world (as opposed to other attributes of G-d, e.g. kindness, truth, etc.) This teaches us the core of Teshuva, as the Rambam explains in the Laws of Teshuva, lies in the fact that a person must reinvent himself a result. It is not only his actions that matter, but his thought process itself. We can now understand the power and far-reaching consequences of the going-ons in one's mind. For this reason we call out to G-d "mima'makim," from the depths of our being for forgiveness, realizing that we must change from inside out.
May we understand our thought process and direct them in a positive direction for ourselves and towards our people.