~ Friday, May 21, 2004 ~
Yet another song based on a song
For the past month or so we've been studying a part of Tractate Sanhedrin that covers what one must do if her life or well-being, or that of her neighbor, is put into imminent danger by some violent person who's trying to harm or kill you. Sometime before we started studying this I was introduced to the music of Fountains of Wayne, so when we reached the part about how you're supposed to kill the person who's putting someone's life in danger beforoe he kills his victim, I already had "Leave the Biker" in my head. On May 9th Talia asked me if I was going to do another song before the end of the year, and I decided to develop the germs of ideas I had into a full thing. I wrote the main part of the song that night and the next night, and ever since, I've been tinkering with it and trying to learn how to play it on accordion and still be heard when I sing. It's fun. I sang it this morning after class, with accordion and everything, which probably marks the first time I've played accordion in front of people in a performance-type-setting. I'm no Linnell, but everyone was very supportive anyway.
I should give some background. A rodef is a threatener or pursuer. A mishnah in Tractate Sanhedrin teaches that if a rodef is pursuing a nirdaf (victim) with the intention of killing him, then you, as the third party, are required to stop the rodef however you can, even if it means killing him, and if you do kill him, you won't be considered a murderer because you were only trying to save the nirdaf's life. In essence, as soon as the rodef starts trying to murder the nirdaf, the rodef becomes chayav mitah, which is Aramaic for "obligated to die". We all know he's going to be tried in court and killed on death row for what he's about to do, so he's already forfeited his life. You might as well kill him before he pulls the trigger so you can save the nirdaf's life, and then only one person will have to die instead of two. This is all supported by a verse in the Torah that states, "Lo ta'amod al dam re'echa," which means "Don't stand upon your brother's blood," and is interpreted to mean, "Don't stand around idly while your brother's blood is being shed."
The gemara on this mishnah had all sorts of questions about that:
1. If you could stop him just by injuring his foot, and you kill him instead, haven't you committed murder? (Answer: yes.)
2. If, in the course of escaping from the rodef, the nirdaf runs through your house and happens to break one of your vessels, and then you successfully save the nirdaf, who is responsible for paying for the damaged property? Is it the rodef, or the nirdaf? Or do you just have to deal with the damage yourself and not complain? (Answer: the nirdaf is responsible, because even though it may have been the rodef's fault that he had to crash through your window and shatter your Ming vase, we can't charge the rodef because of a little technicality that says once he's chayav mitah, he can't simultaneously incur any other obligations, even monetary ones. The only other choice would be to say that you, the third party, will simply receive no compensation at all, but we don't want to do that because we want to make the part of the hero very attractive, to encourage people to save their threatened friends whenever possible. Thus, the nirdaf is in debt to you for your vase which he broke while he was running for his life.)
3. What if you have to go to a great deal of effort and expense to effectively save the nirdaf? How much should you reasonably be expected to do? (I don't think they decided the answer to this one; either that, or I don't remember it.)
4. What if the rodef never learned that it's against the law to murder people? Can we still kill him? In the case of other crimes, such as being alone in a room with a member of the opposite sex, you can't punish the "criminals" unless they were given hatra'ah (warning), in the presence of at least two witnesses, that what they are about to do is punishable by x punishment. Shouldn't a rodef have this sort of warning too? (Answer: No, you fool! In the case of murder, as with rape, you don't give the rodef the benefit of the doubt.) There is a long and involved passage of commentary from the Tosafot discussing who is entitled to hatra'ah and who isn't, but everyone agrees that the murderer and the rapist don't deserve hatra'ah. Them, you just kill.
It was an interesting subject to study, but with all those qualifications I began to wonder what would happen if a rodef were chasing a nirdaf and someone else were sitting there watching the scene, realizing what's going on, but unsure of what he's permitted to do in the situation, and methodically going through Sanhedrin to figure out how he ought to proceed. That's the premise. Here's the song.
Shoot the Rodef
Stolen from Leave the Biker by Fountains of Wayne
Seems the harder I try to run, the more he quickens his pace
Can't this man try to understand I like my personal space?
And it looks as if he's packing some heat
Underneath his right tzitzit
He's got a gun and he's gaining on me
And you sit and stare while you learn Sanhedrin
Oh, can't you see my future is falling apart?
Baby please, shoot the rodef, shoot the rodef through the heart
Baby please, shoot the rodef, shoot the rodef through the heart
Lo ta'amod al dam re'echah--never stand idly by
You think maybe you'll shoot for the leg, but baby, that ain't gonna fly
'Cause you're only gonna have one chance
And the fellow's wearing bulletproof pants
The Tosafot's dense, but use your common sense--the guy's chayav mitah
I'll be dead and buried, and you will still be worried over whether he got hatra'ah
And you're wondering which one of us pays
'Cause I happen to have shattered your vase
He's cocked his gun and he's aiming at me
And you're getting scared, but you still aren't helping
Oh, can't you see he's planning to blow me apart?
Baby, please, shoot the rodef, shoot the rodef through the heart
Baby, go, shoot the rodef, shoot the rodef through the heart
Do it now, shoot the rodef, shoot the rodef through the heart
Hurry up, shoot the rodef, shoot the rodef through the heart
Put down the Rashi, shoot the rodef, shoot the rodef through the heaaaaaaaaaaaaaa--
Current Music: What a Fine Day for a Parade, Fountains of Wayne (in my head)
~ prattled by Miriam at 1:27 a.m. [+]
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