As an extension of this question, I guess.

Tehillim 94 discusses the vengeance asked of Hashem to repay the evil done to the downtrodden. It asks "until When, Hashem, will you put up with this" and then explains the "this". Pasuk 6 reads

אַ֭לְמָנָה וְגֵ֣ר יַהֲרֹ֑גוּ וִֽיתוֹמִ֣ים יְרַצֵּֽחוּ׃

they kill the widow and the stranger; they murder the fatherless,

Is this a technical passage, or one balanced with two phrases and two verbs simply for literary reasons? Is the category of death caused to the widow and stranger different from the category (seemingly "murder") brought upon the orphan?

The meforshim I read connect the two verbs but don't really explain why the 2 categories are needed in the verse -- that is, why list the groupings of people separately and then use different verbs which might import different meanings if the ultimate meaning brings them all back together.

Any help in understanding the choice of two technically different verbs and the creation of two groups would be appreciated.

  • Tentatively, perhaps the verses are discussing those who take advantage of the vulnerable, financially. - The widow and proselyte are adults that have some level of culpability in having allowed themselves to be duped. As such, the verse uses the less severe הרג. The orphans are minors who played no role in their having been taken advantage of, so the stronger רצח is used(?)
    – Loewian
    Apr 29, 2020 at 15:23
  • I was wondering if it implied that the deaths of the adults could be societally or judicially justified (even falsely, but with the veneer of reason).
    – rosends
    Apr 29, 2020 at 15:25

1 Answer 1


1) Rav Hirsch (Shemos 20:13) writes

רצח is the highest degree of רשע...unjustified, law-breaking willing; unlawful exercise of free will. רצח is the most serious of crimes...whereas הרג והמית can also denote legal killing, רצח always denotes murder.

Seemingly רצח is a harsher - more inexcusable form of murder, while הרג is less heinous, though certainly a terrible crime. Just not the same level as murdering orphan children.

2) Alternatively, Romemus E-l on Tehillim (94:6) writes

ובראותם שעל אלה לא תפקוד יגעו גם במי שנתייחדת לדיין היא אלמנה כי אתה ה' דיין אלמנות ובראותם שלא תחוש יגעו במי שתאהב הוא הגר כמד"א ואוהב גר כו' ובראותם שלא תפקוד עליהם יגעו גם במי שאתה מיוחד לו לאב הוא היתום וזהו ויתומים ירצחו אשר אתה ה' אבי יתומים

The word used for widows and converts is referring to Hashem stepping in as the Judge meting out הרג as a death penalty. On the other hand, the word used for orphans is calling on Hashem to avenge their death in the role as Father of the orphans.

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