by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS MISHPOTIM 5770 BS"D
Ch. 21, v. 1: "V'eileh hamishpotim" - And these are the judgments - This parsha is strategically placed shortly after the Ten Commandments, which end with not lusting that which belongs to our fellow man. Our parsha teaches us the details and technicalities of what does and does not belong to him. (Sforno)
Ch. 21, v. 1: "Asher tosim" - That you shall place - These words seem to indicate that a physical object is placed before the judges. If the intention was to teach them the rulings the verse should have said, "asher t'lamdeim" (see Rashi). Moshav Z'keinim explains that these words allude to the staff and strap that are the "tools pf the trade" that are required to be in the courthouse, and tp be put into active duty to "gently prod" those who do not comply with the court's rulings. Rabbeinu Bachyei says that the choice of wording teaches us that for the judge who adjudicates properly his position is for him an elixir of life, "sam hachaim," and for the judge who rules improperly it is also an elixir, but for death, "sam hamo'ves."
Ch. 21, v. 2: "Sheish shonim yaavode uvashviis yeitzei lachofshi chinom" - Six years he shall labour and in the seventh he shall go free gratis - Numerous commentators say that the six years and the seventh year of our verse do not run parallel to the laws of "shmitoh," where the years are calculated by cycles and not by the year in which one received ownership of the field or the loan. Rather the years are counted from the time that he was sold into slavery. It is therefore most startling that the Bchor Shor says that in the seventh year the slave is emancipated because there are no agricultural activities and a slave is not needed that much, so the Torah says that he should be emancipated.
Ch. 22, v. 23,24: "V'hoyu n'sheichem almonos uvneichem y'somim, Im kefes talveh es ami …… lo s'simun olov neshech" - And your wives shall be widows and your children orphans, If you will lend money to My nation …… do not place usury fees upon him - The Baal Haturim comments on the juxtaposition of these two verses. If you will collect interest on a loan, you will die young and your wife will be a widow and your children orphans. Ben Yehoyodo explains the connection. The commentators say that the verse "Anshei domim umirmoh lo yechetzu y'meihem" (T'hilim 55:24) refers to those who lend and collect interest. Ben Yehoyodo asks that we see many lender who collect interest and live a long pleasant life. He answers this based on the gemara Shabbos 89b, which relates that Hashem will have a conversation with our Patriarch Yitzchok, complaining that his descendants have sinned. Yitzchok, in attempt to defend the bnei Yisroel cuts down the hours that they could possibly sin. Included in this is the half of the 24 hour period, at night, when they sleep. One who lends money and collects interest on the loan has it accruing all the time, day and night. For him Yitzchok's defence is useless. This is the meaning of the "anshei domim umirmoh lo yechetzu y'meihem." The people of blood (in this case we might say that it means money) and deceit through lending with interest, will not have their days of sins halved, as they sin 24/7. he will be punished by dying young and his wife will be a widow and his children orphans.
Ch. 22, v. 30: "Uvosor ba'sodeh treifoh lo socheilu la'kelev tashlichun oso" - And flesh that was torn asunder in the field shall you not eat to the dog shall you throw it - Rashi says that this is a reward for dogs because they did not bark at the bnei Yisroel when they left Egypt. A story is told in the gemara Yerushalmi Trumos 8:3. A simple person asked a Torah scholar to have a meal in his home and he acquiesced. The simple person seated his dog next to the Torah scholar. The Torah scholar felt affronted and asked if he deserved such debasement. The simple man answered that he wanted to accord his dog great honour as he was so indebted to the dog. Hooligans who would kidnap people entered his city and took away some people. They also entered his home to take away his wife. The dog bit one of them and they all ran away, leaving his wife alone. He therefore felt indebted to his dog.
Ch. 23, v. 2: "Lo si'h'yeh acha'rei rabim l'ro'os" - You shall not be following the majority for bad - By the showdown between Eliyohu and the so-called prophets of baal, where Eliyohu challenged them to make an offering to their god and he would likewise make an offering to l'havdil Hashem and they would pray to their powers to consume the offering in the form of a fire coming down from heaven, Eliyohu offered them to go first, saying "Ki a'tem HOrabim," you are THE majority. He did not say "Ki a'tem rabim," you are A majority. Rabbi Yoseif Karo cites Rabbi Menachem b"r Chelbo who makes note of this and says that Eliyohu was referring to our verse. Even though in general we are to follow the majority, our verse tells us to not do so when it is "l'ro'os," to do bad. Eliyohu was telling them that they are THE "rabim" of our verse.
Ch. 23, v. 7: "Midvar sheker tirchok" - Distance yourself from a false matter - The gemara B'choros 8b relates that the wise men of Athens asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chanina to tell them a lie. He told them that there was once a mule that gave birth. They asked him, "Can a mule give birth?" he responded that these were the false words that he related to them. Thid dialogue is most enigmatic. Rabbi Yechezkel Feivel, the Magid of Vilna explains that even according to the guidelines of the non-Jews falsehood is despised. However, this is limited to lies that might be believed, as people can be fooled, suffer monetary loss, and the like. An outright lie that is obvious even to the most gullible of people is not considered a lie, as it will surely not cause any damage.
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chanina told them of a mule that gave birth, a virtual impossibility. The so-called wise men of Athens asked, "Can this be a lie," meaning this should not be considered a lie because it is impossible. Rabbi Yehoshua responded that according to the Torah's standard even this is a lie.
Ch. 23, v. 15: "Es chag hamatzos tishmor …… v'lo yeiro'u fonai reikom" - The festival of matzos you shall safeguard …… and My countenance shall not be seen empty handed - in verse 17 we have the mitzvoh of all adult males appearing in front of Hashem on the three Holidays. Wouldn't it make more sense to place the last words of our verse there, where it mentions all three Holidays? Rabbi Shlomo Zalman haLevi Roth dayan of Ujhel answers that the requirement of "r'iyas ponim" is to bring a "chagigoh" and a "r'ioh" offering. By Pesach, where one brings a "chagigoh" and a "korban Pesach," we might think that the latter also serves as a "korban r'ioh." This requires our verse to spell it out here, to show that a separate "r'ioh" offering is required.
Ch. 23, v. 25: "Vaavadtem eis Hashem Elokeichem uveirach es lach'm'cho v'es mei'mecho" - And you (plural) shall serve Hashem your G-d and He will bless your (single) bread and your water - Why the change from plural to single? Since serving Hashem is expressed in the plural, it indicates that the masses should serve Hashem as a full time pursuit. The question is obvious. If so, how will so many people be sustained? The answer is that Hashem will bless a single person with much wealth and he will have the merit to sustain many. (n.l.)
Ch. 23, v. 25: "Uveirach es lach'm'cho v'es mei'mecho vahasirosi machaloh mikirbecho" - And He will bless your bread and your water and I will remove sickness from within you - The Rambam hilchos dei'os chapter 4 writes that the majority of health disorders are a result of overeating. Rashi in parshas B'chukosai says that the blessing of "vaachaltem lach'm'chem losova" is "ocheil kimo umisboreich b'mei'ov," that one eats just a bit but it is blessed in his intestines, i.e. that a little satiates. This is the flow of our verse. When Hashem brings blessing to your bread and water, meaning that eating and drinking just a little suffices, it will automatically bring about that Hashem will remove sickness. (Beis Aharon)
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