Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 10   No. 18

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmos
Zvi Meir ben R' Shimon Boruch Iskovitz z"l by his family
R' Moshe Yaakov ben R' Mordechai Shlomo z"l by his family

Parshas Mishpatim

An Eved Ivri
(Part I)
(Adapted from the K'li Yakar)

The Torah opens the Parshah of Mishpatim with the 'Eved Ivri' (a Jewish servant), explains the K'li Yakar, to conform with the first of the 'Aseres ha'Dibros' (in last week's Parshah). The Torah wrote there "I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt from the house of slaves". Our fathers were sold as slaves to Egypt because they stole their brother Yosef and sold him to Egypt. In the end, that is precisely where they paid for their crime. Eventually however, they were set free. Therefore the Torah instructs us that when we buy an Eved Ivri who is sold because he stole, we too, should remember to set him free.


The Pasuk refers to him, not just as an 'Eved', but as an 'Eved Ivri', the K'li Yakar explains, because Avraham hailed from the other side of the river ('Eiver ha'Nahar'), where his ancestors had been idolaters (as the Ba'al Hagadah informs us). The Eved Ivri too, by virtue of his misdeeds (there are few things more abhorrent in the eyes of G-d than theft), is following in their footsteps, and so he is deserving of the title 'Ivri'; or perhaps it is simply a derivative of 'O'ver', meaning a transgressor. And that explains why an Eved Ivri who sells himself, and who is not sold directly because of his sins, is described as ''ochicho'' (without the added title of 'ho'Ivri'). Interestingly, the sinner too, is referred as "ochicho ho'Ivri", thereby supporting Chazal, who have said that a Jew who sins is still a Jew.


The k'li Yakar suggests a number of reasons as to why an Eved Ivri works six years and goes free in the seventh. Yet the one he presents last is the one he prefers. It is, he explains, like many other sevenths, which are designated for rest from work - the seventh day (Shabbos), the seventh year (Shmitah) and the seventh cycle of Sh'mitah, which culminates with the Yovel year. So too, the Torah orders the Jewish servant to work six years, and to go free in the seventh.


If his master gives him a Shifchah Cana'anis (a Cana'ani slave-girl) to live with, he is obligated to accept, and any children born to them are slaves that belong to his master. But this is only if the Eved Ivri is married already, but not if he comes in single. Why is that? We are afraid, says the K'li Yakar, that if he is single, he will become addicted to the Shifchah, and will want to extend his term beyond the initial six-year period, because he loves his 'wife'. And this is something that the Torah wants to discourage, as is clear from the continuation of the Parshah. And it is something that is far less likely to happen if he already has a Jewish wife.

Others suggest the reason to be that it is the master who will be reluctant to purchase a servant who has a wife and children whom he has to feed. So to tempt him to buy the servant, the Torah allows him to give the Eved Ivri a Shifchah, to make up for his losses by providing him with slaves, an incentive which is unnecessary in the case of someone who has bought an unmarried servant.

And thirdly, the K'li Yakar suggests, it is because an unmarried Eved might expend all his energy on the Shifchah, without taking the trouble to find a Jewish wife in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of having children. That is why the Torah withholds from him the concession of living with a Shifchah Cana'anis (irrespective of whether it would be for his own benefit or that of his master). Here too, this is a concern that would not affect a married Eved Ivri.


An Eved Ivri who wishes to remain in his master's employ because he loves 'his wife' and 'his children', may do so, but only after he has his ear pierced to the door-post. According to Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai, this is because it was his ear that heard at Har Sinai "Do not steal!", yet he went and stole. So it is his ear that must pay for its disobedience. The K'li Yakar asks why, in that case, the ear is not pierced for other sins that one heard at Har Sinai, and subsequently transgressed?

So he quotes the Gemara in Bava Kama, which explains why the punishment of a thief is more stringent than that of a robber. A thief, says the Gemara, as opposed to a robber, is more afraid of his fellow man than he is of G-d. He makes out, says the Gemara, as if the Divine Eye cannot see, and the Divine Ear cannot hear. Perhaps it is for the very same reason that the ear of the Eved (who is sold for having stolen) is pierced (not his eye, because that would render him blind in one eye, defeating its own purpose by limiting his use as an Eved Ivri).

And as far as an Eved who sold himself is concerned, his ear is pierced for creating a situation where, by virtue of his being fully under the jurisdiction of his master, he can no longer bend his ear fully to hear what G-d wants of him. Why then, do both categories of Eved Ivri not have their ears pierced as soon as their six-year term begins, asks the K'li Yakar, at the time when they initially sinned?

And he replies with the principle that the Torah does not mete out two punishments for one sin. Consequently, in the event that the thief pays double for having stolen, his atonement is complete. If on the other hand, he is sold, the six-year of work period is his punishment.

As for an Eved who sells himself, his financial straits renders him an o'nes (beyond his control), which does not warrant further punishment.

If, after six years, they opts to remain an Eved, then the Eved who sold himself is no longer an o'nes, and the one who was sold by Beis-Din has revealed retroactively, that he does not consider the service a punishment. He has now opted to become a servant of servants (rather than a servant of G-d), turning his ear away from the will of G-d. Both Avadim therefore, now deserve to have their ears pierced.

As a matter of fact, this explanation goes well with that of Raban Yochanan ben Zakai too, and will explain why the Eved's ear is not pierced immediately, even according to him.


Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)

Sixth Year Fruit

" Six years you shall sow your land and you shall gather its crops ... and the seventh year " (23:10/11).

The Torah connects the crops of the sixth year to the seventh, explains the Ba'al ha'Turim, to teach us that (depending on their stage of growth when the Sh'mitah enters) they too, are subject to the restrictions of the Sh'mitah-year.


The Restrictions of the Sh'mitah

"And the seventh year you shall leave fallow ... and the poor shall eat from it; the remainder (ve'yisram) the wild beasts of the field shall eat ... " (23:11).

The word "ve'yisram", the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, appears in Iyov (22:20) "ve'yisram achlah eish (fire will consume the remainder)".

This teaches us, he explains, that (once the time of 'Biy'ur' [destroying the remains of the Sh'mitah produce] arrives) a. it becomes prohibited to benefit from the fruit of Shevi'is b. its sanctity is transferred on to anything that one swaps it for, and c. it must be destroyed.


The Greatness of Yom-tov

" ... and the names of other gods you may not mention ... Three Regalim you shall celebrate each year". The juxtaposition of the two Pesukim teaches us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that anyone who treats Yom-tov with disdain, it is as if he had served idols, as Chazal have taught.

The reason for this, it would seem, is because a major theme of Yom-tov is to 'meet with Hashem' in the Beis-Hamikdash, and to express our gratitude for the crops and for the good things He has done for us. And if G-d associates Himself with Yom-tov, then to the extent that one treats Yom-tov lightly, one opens the door to others to replace Him.


Tefilah be'Tzibur

"va'Avadtem es Hashem Elokeichem (And you shall serve Hashem your G-d), u'veirach es lachm'cho ve'es meimecho (and He will bless your bread and your water)" 23:25.

Interpreting this Pasuk with regard to Tefilah, to which "Avodah" sometimes alludes, the Ba'al ha'Turim comments that it begins in the plural but ends in the singular. To teach us, on the one hand, the importance of Tefilah be'Tzibur (to Daven with a Minyan), and on the other, that Hashem answers the communal prayers according to each individual's needs (see also K'li Yakar).


A Full Life

"es Mispar yomecho amalei (I will give you a full life" - 23:26).

What constitutes a full life? Moshe Rabeinu wrote in Kapitel 90 in Tehilim that a full life constitutes seventy years (eighty, at best).

The numerical value of "amalei", observes the Ba'al ha'Turim, is seventy-two, seventy, plus the year of birth and the year of death.


As Death Approaches


The word "amalei" occurs also in Mishlei (8:21) "ve'otzroseihem amalei (and I will fill their storehouses)".

When a Tzadik has lived a full life, before he departs this world, he is shown what is in store for him in the World to Come, as the Gemara records regarding both Rebbi Avahu and Rebbi Elazar ben P'das.

And along slightly different lines, Chazal have taught that the time to rebuke a person for his sins is before one dies, in order not to have to keep on rebuking him (see also Rashi Devarim 1:3). That is why, besides in the Pasuk here, the same word occurs again in Iyov (25:4) "u'fi amalei tochochos (and I will fill my mouth with rebuke)".


Fatal Attraction

" ... because it will be for you a trap ... And to Moshe He said, 'go up to Hashem, you and Aharon Nadav and Avihu ..." (23:32/24:1).

When the incident referred to here took place, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, it did indeed turn out to be a trap, because Nadav and Avihu died, when they looked at the Shechinah.

The Shechinah is compared to fire. Just as, in spite of the attraction of its warmth, one must take care to keep one's distance, so too, the Shechinah. One must take great care not to succumb to the powerful temptation to look, when confronted by its Presence. Indeed, Nadav and Avihu should have taken their cue from Moshe, who knew to hide his face, when the Shechinah first revealed itself to him at the Burning Bush.


Twelve Beautiful Words

"Kol ha'devarim asher diber Hashem na'aseh". "Kol asher diber Hashem na'aseh ve'nishma" (24:3/7). These two Pesukim, each comprising six words, correspond to the six words that the twelve sons of Ya'akov said to their father "Sh'ma Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad", and the six words with which their father, Ya'akov responded "Baruch Sheim k'vod Malchuso le'olam va'ed" (Ba'al ha'Turim).


History of the World
(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)

The Post-Churban Era
(Part IV)


Frightening signs appear in the sky over Rome, followed by fire from heaven that destroy all their work-houses as well as other buildings, and all the books that they contain. The same happens in Alexandria. This in turn, is followed by an earthquake and a second fire that destroys part of the city. Then a famine strikes, followed by a plague.



Rebbi Yehudah ha'Nasi completes the compilation of the Mishnah (according to others, this took place thirty years earlier in 3948, 1500 years after the Exodus from Egypt).

The Mishnah is accepted everywhere, both in Eretz Yisrael and Bavel. In the Yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael, Rebbi's two sons Raban Gamliel (the third) and Rebbi Shimon work on it, as well as Rebbi Chiya, Rebbi Oshaya, Rebbi Chanina and Rebbi Yochanan together with their contemporaries. In the Yeshivah in Bavel, it is studied by Rebbi's disciples, Rav and Shmuel, who move to Bavel the year after its compilation, in 3979, still in the lifetime of Rebbi. This means that Rebbi lived to be a hundred.

Rebbi appoints his son Raban Gamliel (the third), to succeed him, and he teaches his other son, Rebbi Shimon, the laws of science and wisdom. Both remain in Eretz Yisrael. Rebbi Chiya Rabah (the Great) is also a disciple of Rebbi. He, together with Rebbi Oshaya, are the principal authors of the B'raisos (a vast collection of sayings and rulings of the Tana'im, that are second in importance only to the Mishnah). Rebbi Chiya has the dual status of a Tana and an Amora.



The Amora'im are so called because the word 'Amora' means 'translator', and with the close of the era of the Tana'im, the Amora'im no longer have the authority to nullify the words of the Tana'im or to argue with them, only to 'translate' (and explain) their words.

As already stated, Rav and Shmuel are disciples of Rebbi (the former is also a disciple of Rebbi Chiya [his uncle]). Both of them move to Bavel, where Shmuel becomes Rosh Yeshivah in Neherda'a, and Rav in Sura. The latter works wonders in Sura, transforming it from a town of ignoramuses into one of Torah-scholars.



Rav dies after serving as Rosh Yeshivah in Sura and Masa Mechsaya for twenty-four years. The Yeshivos of Sura and Pumbedisa will continue to function for close to another eight hundred and twenty years, until the days of Rav Hai Ga'on.

During this period, Rebbi Yochanan, who received the Torah from Rebbi Oshaya, is the Rosh Yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael. Rav Shilo lives in Bavel during the reign of Rav and Shmuel, and so do Rav Kahana (the first), Rav Ami and Rav Asi, and during their final years, Rav Ada bar Ahavah and Rabah bar Avuhah.

Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi lives in Eretz Yisrael. Some count him among the Tana'im and list him as a Rebbe of Rebbi Yochanan. Others consider him his talmid. Some sdy that no rainbow is seen in his lifetime (the sign of a righteous generation). He is one of nine people to enter Gan Eden alive.



In (Part 3), year 3910 should have read 'Rebbi Yehudah ha'Nasi (Rebbi) and his two sons Raban Gamliel (the third) and Rebbi Shimon and Rebbi Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon (bar Yochai)', instead of 'Rebbi Shimon, and Rebbi Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon (bar Yochai)'.


We should also add that one of Rebbi's contemporaries was Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yossi. In fact, Rebbi held him in particularly high esteem, because of the high standing of his father Rebbi Yossi, who was one of the most outstanding sages of the previous generation.


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