Bachya Ibn Pakuda, Genesis 37:21
בחיי אבן פקודה, בראשית לז:כא

לא נכנו נפש. קשה היה לראובן עצת האחים, והיתה כוונתו להצילו. ואילו אמר: לא נכנו סתם, היה מראה עצמו בדבריו כי מניעתו זאת לחמלה עליו, וע"כ הוסיף להזכיר "נפש", כלומר שאינו מקפיד עליו רק עליהם, שלא יכו נפש שום אדם. וכן מה שאמר: אל תשפכו דם, ולא אמר "דמו", כלומר גם אנכי ככם שנאתיו, ואין אני מקפיד על דמו כלל כי אם עליכם, שלא תהיו שופכי דם.

Do not strike a soul – The plan of the brothers was hard for Reuven, and his intention was to save [Joseph]. If he had said, “Don’t strike him!” he would have shown himself in his words that he had pity on [Joseph]. Therefore, he added the word “soul” as if to say that his protest is not specifically about this situation, but that they should never strike any person. And so he said, “Do not spill blood” rather than “Do not spill his blood,” as if to say, “Like you, I also hate him and I don’t care about his blood, but I don’t want you to become murderers.” [AJWS translation]


Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. What is the advantage of bringing the situation into a universal question of morality rather than the particular situation of their brother?

2. In what ways was Reuben's advocacy effective?

Time Period: Medieval (Geonim through the 16th Century)