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Wile completely understood metaphorically, the sentence makes no sense Halachically, for example:

  • "You should pay this man $20, but don't deviate to the right or to the left."

  • "This tool is Tamei, but don't deviate to the right or to the left."

  • "You can marry this woman, but don't deviate to the right or to the left."

  • "You can start wearing Tzitzis at 5:45, but don't deviate to the right or to the left."

Rashi says "אֲפִלּוּ אוֹמֵר לְךָ עַל יָמִין שֶׁהוּא שְׂמֹאל" but we could learn that from just about any other example:

  • "אֲפִלּוּ אוֹמֵר לְךָ עַל היום שֶׁהוּא לילה"
  • "אֲפִלּוּ אוֹמֵר לְךָ עַל חתול שֶׁהוּא כלב", etc.

Why was this phrase specifically chosen to signify deviance from Rabbinical rulings?

  • I seem to recall you and I have discussed this before here (not as a question, but as a series of comments on someone’s answer). What I was taught (no hard source) is that, unlike the examples you bring, right and left are subjective; if you turn around, right points the opposite direction. If a Rabbi tells you that east is west and west is east, you’d be an idiot for believing him; if he tells you that left is right and right is left, he’s telling you to change your perspective on things. – DonielF Oct 24 at 20:43
  • @DonielF Sounds Rasha"R Hirsch. – Al Berko Oct 24 at 22:27
  • (I assume Rasha”R was a typo?) It is the kind of thing Rav Hirsch would say, isn’t it? But I can’t find it in his commentary - if he does say it, it’s not on this passuk. – DonielF Oct 25 at 0:38
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Because left and right are directions- paths. They are ways one can go. At a crossroads one needs to make a decision; left or right (or maybe straight). The Torah is talking parabolically- do not deviate from the path the Rabbis set before you- to the left or to the right. Rashi's example is simply based on the Pasuk, just like you may not turn left or right, you must follow the set path even if you are told that what looks right to you is actually left.

  • I think you jumped too fast and overlooked my first sentence: "While completely understood metaphorically, the sentence makes no sense Halachicly,". I didn't ask about how it can be possibly interpreted, I asked how ימין ושמאל can be applied Halachicly. See the beginning of the verse - כי יפלא ממך דבר - strictly Halachic questions, not some general directions in life. – Al Berko Oct 24 at 22:31
  • @AlBerko, I don't understand why a halachic ruling cannot be a path to follow; "you owe this man $20"- only $20, not $19 and not $21. – Rafael Oct 24 at 23:37
  • so what's left and right in your example? – Al Berko Oct 24 at 23:49
  • @AlBerko, Left and Right are allegorical terms for veering away from what the Rabbis tell you. If they tell you owe $20, veering to the left or right would be to decide you owe a value that is not $20. – Rafael Oct 24 at 23:51

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