In the end of Parshas Emor (Vayikra 24:10-23), the Torah relates the story of someone who blasphemed and his punishment. After the person blasphemes, he is put in a prison while Moshe proceeds to ask G-D what the punishment should be.

In verses 14-16, G-D responds with the punishment for blasphemy (stoning). In verse 23, the Torah relates that Moshe conveyed the law and the punishment was implemented. However, in the middle of the prophecy where G-D details the laws of blasphemy, it seems to go slightly off-topic, detailing various laws about damages (verses 17-22).

Why did the Torah feel the need to include these seemingly off-topic laws in the middle of dealing with the blasphemer?

(As an aside, I could think of only 2 other instances offhand where Moshe goes to ask G-D for a specific ruling (Pesach Sheni and the daughters of Tzelafchad), and in both of those situations, the answers were limited in scope to the question. There is also the case of the Mekoshesh (H/T @DoubleAA) which has a one-Passuk response (Devarim 15:35) that is limited to just addressing the case at hand)

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    Interestingly blaspheming parents is also in the middle of laws of damages (Exodus 21:17) – b a May 22 at 14:42

There are a number of good answers to this question found in the mefarshim to Vayikra 24:17 (link):

R"i Kara explains that since the story told that there was a fight, we explain the rules of what else might happen in the fight.

Ibn Ezra similarly says that they might even have hit each other in this case (Ibn Caspi supports this as well).

(See user15464's answer above for the Bechor Shor's take.)

Similarly, Chizkuni notes that these are both cases which begin with a fight, and lead to a death sentence.

Shadal explains that since one of those fighting was a Ger, we take this opportunity to say that even killing a Ger deserves the death penalty, unlike an animal.

Rav Hirsch says that these verses deal with the general rights of people and animals, just as the Torah does in Sefer Shemot.

More to follow when I have time...


Rav Yitchak Bechor shor of orleans (12th century one of baalei tosfos) says Vayikra 24,17:

ואיש כי יכה כל נפש אדם. כלומר, אף עלבונם אני תובע מענותנותו של הק[ב"ה] בא להשמיענו כי הוא תובע עלבון עמו, ולא כמו שלו, ואפילו לא חסר אלא בהמתכם, דכתיב: מכה נפש בהמה ישלמנה "If a man strikes a soul of a man he shall die"- the placement of this verse is to express that not only does G-d Blessed be He seek out those who blaspheme his name, rather our own dishonour He also demands in His Humility. This shows he will protect the honour of his people and even if they are victims through their animals loss He will claim on our behalf as it says 18: And one who strike an animal shall pay conpensation....


The Netziv in Ha-amek Davar (Vayikra 24:17) raises this question, and answers that in the same way as in the previous verse there is no difference in punishment between that of the High Priest and that of any commoner, even a lowly slave, so too he who blasphemes, we should not err and consider that a low commoner who blasphemes it should be insignicant, so we are taught that "all are equal before the Law".

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