by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS MISHPOTIM 5772 BS"D
Ch. 21, v. 1: "V'ei'leh hamishpotim asher tosim lifneihem" - And these are the laws that you shall set in front of them - The following parshios of sefer Shmos deal in the main with the Mishkon and the priestly garments. The Mishkon and all of its activities are totally a "bein odom laMokome" pursuit. This is why those parshios are predicated by "V'ei'leh hamishpotim asher tosim lifneihem." Behaviour between man and man must be dealt with first, as "Derech eretz kodmoh laTorah." "V'ei'leh hamishpotim asher tosim lifneihem," - these are the laws that you shall place AHEAD of them, i.e. the laws of "bein odom laMokome." (Rebbe Reb Bunim of Parshizcha)
Ch. 21, v. 37: "Ki yignov ish shor o seh utvocho o m'choro chamishoh vokor y'sha'leim tachas hashor v'arba tzone tachas ha'seh" - When a man will steal an ox or a sheep and will either slaughter it or sell it five cattle shall he pay for the ox and four sheep for the sheep - Although the gemara B.M. explains why there is a greater penalty for stealing and slaughtering/selling an ox over a sheep (see Ibn Ezra for an additional reason), the gemara does not deal with the great punitive aspect of this law.
The Rambam in Moreh N'vuchim 3:42 explains that a person can generally protect his valuables by either hiding them or putting them under lock and key, or both. However, when it comes to his livestock, albeit that at night they can be placed into a barn and have it locked, when they are grazing it is very hard to protect them from theft. True that there is a livestock herder present, but given that livestock spread out over a large area, it becomes relatively easy to steal. This, he writes, explains why for an ox there is an additional fine over a sheep. Oxen graze in a more spread out area than do sheep. To deter a would be thief, if he is caught he is subject to these extreme punitive measures.
No doubt, those of us who possess diamonds, other precious stones, gold jewellery, etc. make sure to not have them out in the open when an "ozerret" is around. There is something infinitely more precious than all our jewellery, and that is our children. There are many, many negative forces that try to "steal" our children away from their Torah heritage and its values. There was a time when we could somewhat keep them under "lock and key." Not that many "ganovim" abounded, and even when they did, they were not as deleterious as are present-day spiritually destructive items.
On the words in Vayikra 19:11, "Lo tignovU," the Ibn Ezra writes that it is expressed in the plural form because "Horo'eh v'eino mocheh ganov," - he who witnesses the crime and does not combat and go up against it is also a partner in crime, hence the plural form.
Although it might sound very dramatic, since we are all aware of the overwhelming array of "nisyonos" that attempt to lure our children away, and they are no longer under "lock and key" against these powerful lures, it is as if they are out in the field, ready to fall victim to any predator. If we just stand idly by ch"v, we are likewise partners in crime with present-day enticements, technological or otherwise, "Hashem y'racheim!" It is our holy duty to stand guard with every fibre in our being to protect our children or else we might likewise be subject to punitive "arba vachamishoh" ch"v.
Ch. 22, v. 14: "Im b'olov imo lo y'sha'leim" - If its owner is with him he does not pay - The soul that is placed into our bodies will be returned to hHashem. In the interim we are "borrowing" our souls. If we ch"v sully our souls with sins, even if it was done in a manner of "o'neis," we are still responsible, as we are borrowers. If however, we have Hashem with us, we have the answer of "Im b'olov imo lo y'sha'leim." This was King Dovid's prayer, "Achas shoalti mei'eis Hashem …… shivti b'veis Hashem kol y'mei chayoy" (T'hilim 27). My soul, which is "achas," a.k.a "y'chidoh," I have borrowed from Hashem. Therefore I am responsible for even "o'neis." This is why I pray that "shivti b'veis Hashem kol y'mei chayoy," that I should always be in Hashem's house, i.e. in His presence, and have the status of "B'olov imo lo y'sha'leim." (Rebbe Reb Bunim of Parshizcha)
Ch. 22, v. 21: "Kol almonoh v'yosom lo s'anun" - Any widow or orphan you shall not pain - This prohibition against paining an orphan is only in place if your intention is just for causing him pain. If, however, your intention is solely for guiding him onto the proper path, not only is this not a prohibition, but rather, it is kindness to the orphan. (Sforno)
Ch. 22, v. 24: "Im kesef talveh es ami es ho'oni imoch" - If you will lend money to one of My nation the poor man with you - The Chid"o in Nachal K'dumim writes that if you are lending money, do it "es ami," with witnesses. If you are dealing with a poor man and giving him a donation, do it "imoch," privately.
A variation on this: If you are lending money to the average person, who needs it not for the bread to his mouth, but more likely for an investment, then "es ami," it is preferable for the borrower that you do it publicly, as this shows that he is financially on solid footing, as you are willing to lend him money and are not concerned that he might default. When you are lending money to a destitute person, do it in as private a manner as possible, "imoch" (beyond the halachically mandated witnesses), as it is an embarrassment for him to have to borrow money for the basics. (n.l.)
Ch. 23, v. 13: "Uvchole asher omarti a'leichem tisho'meiru v'shem elohim acheirim lo sazkiru lo yishoma al picho" - And in all that I have said to you shall you safeguard and the names of gods of others shall you not mention it shall not be heard from your mouth - Each mitzvoh, positive or prohibitive, corresponds to a specific part of the body, 248 Eivorim 365 gidim. Not even mentioning a false god corresponds to the whole body, in consonance with idol worship being equated with transgressing all 613 mitzvos. However, if one has transgressed a mitzvoh, then not mentioning idols does not compensate for the part of the body that lacks a fulfillment of its corresponding mitzvoh. (Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh)
Ch. 24, v. 12: "A'lei eilai hohoroh ve'he'yei shom" - Ascend to Me to the mountain and be there - If Moshe ascends the mountain isn't it obvious that he would be there? It is possible for a person to come to the holiest situation and his mind can be somewhere else. (Admor Rabbi Yechezkel of Kuzhmir)
Alternatively, an insight that is the opposite of this: Even when you, Moshe, will be on the mountain together with the Holy Sh'chinoh, "ve'he'yei shom," your mind should be there, with the people of your nation. Don't lose yourself in basking with the Holy Sh'chinoh. Your ascent is for the purpose of bringing the Torah to the masses assembled below.
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