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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 21, v. 4: "Im adonov yi'tein lo ishoh" - This verse discusses the person who stole from another and did not have sufficient money to repay the theft. He is sold as a slave and the money is used to repay the victim of the theft. The Torah allows the master to give his servant a maidservant as a wife. Rabbi Ovadioh of Bartenura suggests that the Torah gave this dispensation because the original wife of the thief/servant might have convinced him to steal in the first place.

Ch. 21, v. 4: "Im adonov yi'tein lo ishoh"- The Holy Zohar writes that this verse alludes to the Master who gives a man a wife who was not originally destined for him at the time of his conception. She was not the "bas ploni lifloni" of the gemara Nidoh 30b. The man beseeched Hashem for this particular woman to become his wife, but she wasn't really the one Hashem had in mind. As our Rabbis say, "Shemo y'kadmeno acheirr brachamim," that through prayers another can end up with a wife who was originally destined for another. The verse ends with, "v'yoldoh lo vonim o vonose ho'ishoh vilo'dehoh t'h'yeh ladonehoh v'hu yeitzei v'gapo," even if this women bears him children, she and the children are for Hashem, while he will leave this world empty-handed, since he reproduced with a woman who was not originally destined for him.

We see that although the power of prayer is so great that it can even, so to say, force Hashem's hand, but not everything that can be gotten through prayer should be pursued.

Ch. 21, v. 6: "V'higisho el ha'de'les" - Why bring him to the door? Rashbam answers that it is pragmatic to do so. Even if a house is built of stone, the doors and door frames are made of wood. Wood is a practical material into which an awl can be forced. Rabbeinu Bachyei in the name of the medrash says that Hashem gives this slave an opening to leave servitude at the end of six years. The slave who turns down this opportunity and opts to stay on has voluntarily shut the door to his freedom. In kind we pierce his earlobe against the doorway opening.

Ch. 21, v. 6: "V'rotza adonov es ozno" - The Chizkuni explains that by piercing his earlobe the slave is left with a noticeable mark, indicating that he is a ben Yisroel who has brought himself into permanent enslavement. This is done to avoid someone incorrectly identifying him as a Canaanite slave, an otherwise distinct possibility, since he is enslaved beyond six years.

Ch. 21, v. 6: "Bamartzei'a" - Hashem told Avrohom that his descendants would be enslaved for 400 years (Breishis 15:13). In spite of this Hashem made a calculation that allowed them to be enslaved for a much shorter period of time, "chisheiv es ha'keitz." Let this person who has willingly extended his servitude have his ear pierced with an awl, a "martzei'a," whose numerical value is 400, to remind him of his wrongdoing. (Targum Yerushalmi)

Ch. 23, v. 3: "V'dol lo sehdar b'rivo" - Do not glorify a destitute person in his grievance. What is the grievance of the poor man and in what way can one strengthen his complaint? The poor man may express his frustration and anger against Hashem saying, "Why does Hashem forsake me?" When one gives charity to the needy, he refutes this contention of the poor man. On the other hand, if he refuses to give charity, he is strengthening the poor man's complaint. Therefore, the Torah cautions to give charity so as not to provide support for the poor man's complaint about his financial situation. (Shomati o Korosi)

Ch. 23, v. 5: "Ki si'reh chamor sonaacho" - If you see your foe's donkey crouching under its load, you might want to refrain from helping him, but instead you must surely help him. Why does the Torah elaborate with the thinking of the observer of this scenario, and then state otherwise? Why not simply say, "Help the man with the load that is on his donkey"?

This can be explained with a story. Before the Holy Baal Hatanya became the great leader of Lubavitch Chasidus he once traveled to raise money for an important charitable cause. He came to the home of a wealthy man who upon realizing that he was not an ordinary collector, offered to have him stay and teach his children Torah in return for the entire sum he wished to raise. After a short while, the Baal Hatanya advised his host that he was leaving because he could not tolerate the conduct of the people of the community. His host asked him what he meant, and the Baal Hatanya responded that the people of this city torture the poor. The host thought that he was referring to a recent town meeting to determine how to raise money for a tax. It was decided that first the poor should give as much as could be squeezed out of them, and whatever shortfall was left would be made up by the rich. He realized that this was a great injustice, as the poor should not be taxed at all. Wielding his influence he immediately arranged for a second meeting, at which it was decided that only the rich should pay this particular tax.

A few days later, the Baal Hatanya again gave notice that he was leaving, exclaiming once again, "Your community tortures the poor." The host told his honoured guest of the second meeting and that the poor would not be bothered at all. The Baal Hatanya told him that he was not aware of the meetings and had been referring to a totally different issue. The human body has "wealthy" organs and a "poor" organ. The wealthy organs are the mind and the heart, and the "poor" organ is the stomach. He explained that he noticed that in this city instead of putting an emphasis on the rich organs and engaging them in the pursuit of Torah study Torah and concentration in prayer to Hashem, the approach is to constantly fast. Thus, the "poor" organ, the stomach, is deprived and made to suffer for the person's sins. The Baal Hatanya said that he vehemently disagreed with this approach.

This view was very novel to his host, and he asked its source. The Baal Hatanya told him of the Baal Shem Tov's teachings, which accentuate working with the mind and heart and not punishing the body. He added that the Baal Shem Tov based his approach on our verse as per the following interpretation: "Ki si'reh," when you will realize, "chamore," that the physical component of the body is, "sonaacho," your enemy, because he is engaged in pursuing physical pleasures, and thus, hates the spiritual component, the soul, which is striving for a spiritual gains, and the body is "roveitz tachas maso'o," crouching under his burden, shirking his responsibility, not willing to straighten up and serve Hashem, "v'chodalta mei'azove lo," and you may contemplate torturing the physical component, denying it the food it needs. The verse continues, advising that this is a wrong approach. Rather, "ozove ta'azove imo," give him help. Give him his bodily needs and attune your mind and soul to serve Hashem. With the passage of time your body will become purified and will cooperate in your service of Hashem.

Ch. 23, v. 5: "V'chodalto mei'azove lo ozove taazove imo" - We are accustomed to translate "mei'azove" as "from helping," and "ozove taazove" as "you should surely help" (Rashi). However, Targum Onkeles translates this word form as "you should let go," i.e. you should forgive him for whatever you have held against him until now, "v'sitimna milmishbak lei, mishbak tishboke ma dibliboch alohi, usfo'reik i'mei."

Ch. 23, v. 16: "V'chag ho'osif b'tzeis hashonoh" - The festival of ingathering should be celebrated at the end of the year. In parshas Ki Siso it is written, "v'chag ho'osif t'kufas hashonoh" (34:22). Rashi explains this to mean at the beginning of the next year. Is Sukos at the end or the beginning of the year?

In the Yalkut Shimoni on parshas Pinchos remez #782

Rabbi Levi says that Hashem planned to give the bnei Yisroel a holiday in every month from Nison through Tishrei. Thus, Pesach falls in Nison, Pesach Sheini in Iyor, and Shovuos in Sivon. When the bnei Yisroel sinned with the golden calf in the month of Tamuz, Hashem canceled Yomim Tovim for the months of Tamuz, Ov and Elul. Hashem placed Rosh Hashonoh, Yom Kipur and Sukos in Tishrei, which were originally supposed to be during Tamuz, Ov and Elul respectively. Sh'mini Atzeres, a separate Yom Tov, remained in the month of Tishrei.

Our parsha is discussing the Yom Tov of Sukos before the bnei Yisroel sinned with the golden calf. At that point in time Sukos was designated to be at the end of the year, during the month of Elul. The sin of the golden calf took place in parshas Ki Siso. After the sin of the "ei'gel hazohov" was committed the Yom Tov of Sukos was moved forward to the beginning of the new year, to the month of Tishrei.

Ch. 23, v. 17: "Sholosh p'omim bashonoh yeiro'eh kol z'churcho" - The Tiku'nei Hazohar page 137b writes that a person who is cross-eyed is exempt from the mitzvoh of the thrice yearly pilgrimage, "aliyoh l'regel."

The Chid"o in Simchas Ho'regel writes in the name of the medrash that the words in Shir Hashirim 7:2, "Mah yofu paa'mei'ich banolim" teach that with every footstep one takes on his pilgrimage to Yerusholayim for Yom Tov an angel of defense is created.

Ch. 23, v. 20,21: "Hi'nei onochi sholei'ach maloch, Al ta'meir bo" - The Rambam in Moreh N'vuchim writes that the words of these verse applies to a person who was appointed as spiritual leader for a congregation or community and is teaching them to come closer to Hashem. The verse warns us to not "rebel" in him, as in "ben soreir u'MOREH."

Rabbi Shlomo Kluger in his responsa Ho'elef L'cho Shlomo Y.D. # 253 writes that according to this Rambam "al ta'meir bo" is to be understood as "do not Switch him," as in T'MUROH. If the Rov sees that people are attempting to unseat him he is responsible to fight tooth and nail to retain his position, as we see that Hashem reacts in a fiery zealous manner when people worship idols and attempt to replace Him.

Ch. 23, v. 25: "VaavadTEM es Hashem ElokeiCHEM u'veirach es lach'm'CHO v'es mei'meCHO" - Why does the verse begin with "vaavadTEM," you (plural form) shall serve, and conclude with lach'm'CHO v'es mei'meCHO," your (singular form) bread and water"?

Even with the most fervent entreaties, the power of prayer of an individual is limited. This is especially true if he is not fully Torah observant. However, prayer with a congregation, "t'filoh b'tzibur," is much more powerful, piercing the very heavens and bringing fulfillment of prayers even for those who lack their own merit. This is alluded to in the word "tzibur" itself, spelled Tzadi-Beis-Reish, an acronym for "tzadikim, beinonim, r'sho'im."

The Torah is advising that if you want Hashem to bless "lachmeCHO," that your (singular) bread should be supplied in abundance, this can be accomplished through "va'avadTEM," praying with a quorum, as the merit of the congregation will stand you in good stead. (Adaptation of the Baal Haturim)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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