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The case of a nameless man

He is not so nameless. We know at least the name of his mother, Shelomith. daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan. His father was Egyptian ,and this is all the information we are provided by Leviticus 24: 11-12.

We also know that,”this son of the Israelite woman” was the instigator of the fight that broke out between him and a fully-fledged Jew, “a son of the Israelite man”. Torah does not give us the reasons for the skirmish, but Rashi explains that this man “..went to pitch his tent among the tents of the tribe of Dan, his mother’s tribe, as stated by the Torah. The Danites rejected him as tribal allegiance is based on the father and not on the mother. When he came to Moses complaining, the court upheld the opinion of the Danites. As a result of being frustrated, he cursed the G-d “Who had so discriminated against him.”

He is understandably frustrated, but the punishment for blasphemy disregards the causes that led a person to such behavior. The man is then taken into custody as this was the first occurrence of blasphemy in the Israelite camp. God commands Moses to stone the offender. However, there is a twist to the story.

As Rashi says, quoting Leviticus Rabbah (32:5), “it is to tell how praiseworthy Israel was that Scripture publicly mentions her name exposes her, telling us implicitly that of all the women of Israel she alone was a harlot.”

Of course, because who else could have had relations with an Egyptian and give birth to a blasphemer!

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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