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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 21, v. 1: "V'ei'leh hamishpotim" - The Baal Haturim says that each letter of this verse can be the first letter of a list of basic rules for judges. V'chayov Odom Lachakor Hadin (Pirkei Ovos 1:1), Hadayon M'tzu'veh She'yaa'seh P'shoroh Terem Yaa'seh Mishpot (gemara Sanhedrin 6b), Im Shneihem Rotzim (ibid.), Tishma Shnei'hem Yachad M'dabrim (ibid. 10b), Lo Fnei Nodiv Y'ha'deir, Yisna'keir Mei'hem (as per gemara Shvuos 30a).

Ch. 21, v. 7: "Lo seitzei k'tzeis ho'avodim" - A most novel interpretation by the Ibn Ezra: A maid servant need not go out, as a male servant would, i.e. the master may not give her work that requires her leaving the house and going outside.

Ch. 21, v. 20: "V'chi ya'keh ish es avdo o es amoso BA'SHEIVET" - The case detailing the hitting of a servant who later dies tells us that the master hit him with a staff. The Rashbam says that the ruling of this verse that if the servant survives for over a 24-hour period the master is acquitted of the death penalty is only so if he hit with a staff, indicating that he hit the servant to push him into proper subservience. However, if he hit him with a sword, this indicates hitting with malicious intent, and even if the servant survives for over 24 hours, but dies later from the injury, the master is culpable for the death penalty.

Ch. 21, v. 19: "V'rapo y'ra'pei" - These words discuss medical intervention to bring a person back to health and we find the term for healing mentioned in a double form. When the healing of Hashem is discussed, "Ki ani Hashem ro'fecho" (Shmos 15:26), the term for healing is only mentioned once. Perhaps this is to indicate that when Hashem heals, He does so in one go, while when a doctor is brought onto the scene, he sets up a series of visits for his patients. (Baal Nisoyon)

Ch. 21, v. 21: "Ach im yom o yomayim yaamod lo yukom ki chaspo hu" - These words are homiletically explained by Rabbi Yaakov of Poznan: If a person only stands in prayer and repentance for a day, Yom Kipur, or two days, Rosh Hashonoh, "lo yukom," he will not endure, "ki chaspo hu," as it is only for his sustenance that he has prayed. (Nachal K'dumim)

Ch. 21, v. 21: "Ki chaspo hu" - The Holy Admor of Kotzk asks, "If the servant is considered the chattel of the master and therefore the master is not considered a murderer, even if the servant dies within 24 hours of the injury the master should not be considered a murderer." He answers that if the servant dies within 24 hours we assume that the master intended to kill his servant. This is to be equated with releasing him from servitude, "hefker," as he wants to kill him. This release from servitude does not require a writ of release, as per the opinion of Shmuel, "Hamafkir avdo eino tzorich get shichrur" (Y'vomos 48a, Nozir 62b, Gitin 38a, Kidushin 72b). Hence he has killed a free man who has the status of a ben Yisroel and deserves the death penalty.

Ch. 21, v. 29: "V'gam baalov yumos" - The gemara B.K. 42b sya that from these words we derive that the number of judges required to rule the case of the "ox that is killed by stoning, "shor haniskol," is the same number as is used to judge a capital case, 23. The gemara Yerushalmi Sanhedrin chapter 1 says that we arrive at this number because the name of Hashem is mentioned in the Torah 23 times until the creation of man. It would seem that this is a most appropriate area of the Torah to indicate this point because Rabbon Shimon ben Gamliel says that on 3 things the world stands, on proper judgement, on truth, and on peace (Pirkei Ovos 1:17).

Since these are the basic supports of the world it is safe to assume that the concept of judgement is alluded to in the first verse of the Torah as well. If we take the mathematical values of the final letters of all the words of the first verse of the Torah we have 22, and "Ein Beis Din shokul," - the court must have an odd number of judges so that we don't have a half and half standoff (Mishneh Sotoh 9:1 and Sanhedrin 1:6), so we add one and have a total of 23 judges to rule capital cases.

Ch. 21, v. 32: "Im evved yigach ...... kesef shloshim shkolim yi'tein" - The Sforno explains that the reason 30 shkolim are paid is that the non-Jew who has become a slave now has the status of a Jewish woman in regards to his mitzvoh responsibilities (gemara Chagigoh 4a), so the payment is equal to that of a woman in the "arochin" system during the most productive years of life, from age twenty to sixty (Vayikroh 27:4). Ch. 21, v. 34: "V'ha'meis y'h'yeh lo" - Our verse discusses an ox that died by falling into a pit. The exact same words appear two verses later regarding an ox being killed by another ox which is an habitual killer. In both cases the ruling is that although the digger of the pit and the owner of the goring ox are responsible to pay for damages. They are calculated by estimating the original worth of the killed ox, and deducting its value as a carcass, and the difference is paid, while the carcass remains the property of the original owner (gemara B.K. 10b). The Baal Haturim in verse 36 says that this is alluded to in the words of the verse "v'ha'meis y'h'yeh lo," whose numerical value is equal to that of "gam habaalim m'taplin binveiloh." Since the above-mentioned gemara says that this rule applies to both injuries of a pit and of an habitual goring ox, why did the Baal Haturim wait until verse 36 to point this out, and not do so earlier in our verse, where the same words appear? I believe that the words of the Baal Haturim were indeed stated in our verse 34, as there are no other comments of the Baal Haturim in between, and there is a printing mistake placing his words in verse 36.

Ch. 21, v. 37: "Chamishoh bokor y'sha'leim tachas hashor v'arba tzone tachas ha'seh" - The gemara B.K. 79b gives two reasons for the disparity between payment for an ox, 5 times its value, and a sheep, 4 times its value. Rabbi Yochonon ben Zakai says that the Torah has mercy even upon a thief. Since the thief wants to make a quick get away, he can carry a sheep. Since this entails some great effort and embarrassment, he only pays quadruple the value of the sheep. An ox is too heavy to carry, so the thief leads it away. He is not subject to the embarrassment of carrying an animal in front of people, and therefore pays more, five times the value of the ox. Rabbi Meir says that one pays only 4 times the value of a sheep because its loss is not that of a working animal. However, when an ox is stolen, not only does the owner endure the financial loss, but also loses a working animal. Therefore the thief pays 5 times its value.

The Ibn Ezra offers another explanation in the name of Rabbi Y'shu'oh. A sheep can be hidden and stolen. This can be done by anyone. To steal an ox and do this in a concealed manner requires the skills of a professional thief. A professional thief deserves to pay professional prices when caught. The Rambam in Moreh N'vuchim explains that in general people can keep personal items locked and away from thieves. This serves as a deterrent and thus theft of such items is not so common. The Torah therefore suffices with a double payment from the thief. Cattle must be brought to pasture. This leaves them open to theft without having to break into someone's property. To avoid this becoming widespread the strong deterrent of double double payment is levied. This explains the quadruple payment for the theft and sale/slaughter (so that the thief would not be caught redhanded with the theft in his possession) of a sheep. Why five times the value for an ox? Sheep generally graze together and the shepherd can keep an eye out over his whole flock for theft. Oxen graze in a very spread out area. It is impossible for one guard to keep an eye on all of them, thus raising the ease of opportunity for stealing an ox. This deserves even stricter retribution, hence a payment of five-fold is levied.

Ch. 22, v. 2: "Im ein lo v'nimkar bigneivoso" - As explained by Rashi in the beginning of parshas Va'yigash, Yehudoh approached Yoseif and said that Binyomin should not become his slave, because the rule of a thief being sold into slavery only applies to one who has no assets with which to pay back the theft, but Binyomin had assets. The Imrei Emes asks, "Since Yoseif's officer (Menasheh) took chase after the brothers and found the goblet, all that was owed was the equal value payment called "kei'fel." The gemara Kidushin 18a derives from the word "bigneivoso" of our verse that if a thief has enough to pay for the basic item that was stolen, but not enough to cover the "keifel" payment, he is not sold into slavery, "bigneivoso v'lo bikfeilo." If so, why didn't Yehudoh use this as a reason to not have Binyomin become a slave?" He answers that perhaps Menasheh took back the goblet as the "keifel" payment, and the stolen item's principal value was still owed. For this a thief is sold, even if the "keifel" is not owed. However, he questions if one has the power to take back the stolen item and designate its value as that of the "keifel."

Ch. 22, v. 2: "V'nimkar bigneivoso" - The Sforno explains why the Torah prescribes such a strong punishment specifically for a poor thief. A person who has no assets would have no deterrent from stealing, because once he has passed it on or has consumed it, there is no recourse for the victim to recover his loss, as the poor thief has no assets. The world would thus be filled with robbers, an untenable situation. The Torah therefore meted out such strong medicine to deter a poor person from stealing.

Ch. 22, v. 8: "Ad ho'elohim yovo dvar shneihem" - If we believe that Hashem dictates what our income will be, why does one go to beis din to adjudicate financial claims? The Yad Haktanoh, a commentator on the Rambam's Yad Hachazokoh, explains that it is only because the Torah says that we may pursue financial claims in court, do we do so, as this opens this venue of either recovering or receiving monetary payment, and is not any different from being paid for working.

Ch. 22, v. 24: "Im kesef talveh ES ami es he'oni IMOCH" - If one lends, he should do so in front of witnesses so the borrower is not tempted to lie and deny that he ever took a loan, hence "ES ami," - with people present. If one is giving charity to a poor man, the opposite is true. It is preferable to give charity privately so as not to embarrass the recipient, hence "he'oni IMOCH," only the donour and the recipient should be present. (Nachal K'dumim)

Ch. 22, v. 24: "Es AMI" - The Ibn Ezra points out that the use of the word form Am indicates that a lower level person takes a loan, while a person of a higher spiritual stature would endure the financial hardships meted out by Hashem and persevere without asking for a loan. We find the same interpretation of the word AM as lower level people in the Nachal K'dumim on Shmos 14:5, "Va'yugad l'melech Mitzrayim ki vorach ho'OM." Paroh was told that HO'OM, the lower level of the nation, the "eirev rav," ran away with the bnei Yisroel, and he therefore took chase.

Ch. 22, v. 24: "Es he'oni IMOCH" - When giving charity to a poor man involve him with some work so he feels that he is not receiving a handout, but rather, payment for his efforts. Translate IMOCH as we find in this parshas 23:5, "Ozove taazove IMO," meaning "along with him." This is also the intention of the Mishneh in Pirkei Ovos 1:5, "V'y'h'yu aniim bnei vei'secho." When a poor man comes to your home, treat him as a household member. Just as you are not reluctant to ask members of your family to help out, so also ask the poor man to help. He thus feels that the meal and lodging that he receives are payment for his efforts and not a handout. (Nachal K'dumim)

Ch. 23, v. 28: "V'shilachti es hatziroh l'fo'necho v'geirshoh es haChivi" - The gemara Sotoh 36a says that the hornets stung the Chivi nation above, in their eyes, and blinded them. As well, they stung them below, in their reproductive organs, and sterilized them. The Chivi are descendants of Canaan, and Canaan (Chom) sinned with his eyes by viewing his father's nakedness, "Va'yar Chom avi Canaan es ervas oviv" (Breishis 9:22). As well, he sinned by castrating his father (gemara Sanhedrin 70a). His descendants were therefore punished in kind by hornets, by being both blinded and sterilized. (Abarbenel)



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