Chamishoh Mi Yo'dei'a

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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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1) Ch. 21, v. 2: "Ki sikneh evved Ivri" - When you will purchase a Hebrew slave - Why doesn't the verse say "Ki sikach," as this is the more common Torah expression for acquiring? Why is the transaction here expressed as purchasing, while by the maidservant in verse 7 it is expressed as selling, "V'chi yimkore"?

2) Ch. 21, v. 3: "V'yotzoh ishto imo" - And his wife should leave with him - His wife was not a slave, so why does the Torah say that she too is emancipated?

3) Ch. 21, v. 12: "Ma'kei ish vo'meis mose yumos" - The one who smites a man and he dies he should surely be put to death - Although Rashi comments that there are numerous verses discussing a murderer and surely each tells us new information, we find a very unusual sequence. Our verse tells of an intentional murderer, the next an accidental killer, and the next, again an intentional one. This deserves clarification. Shouldn't the Torah stick with intentional before it goes off to unintentional?

4) Ch. 23, v. 10: "V'sheish shonim tizra es artzecho" - And six years you may sow your land - The parsha of "shmitoh" here and in B'har is expressed in the singular (25:3,4,5), while the parsha of "yoveil" is expressed in the plural, "Lo siz'ro'u v'lo sik'tz'ru v'lo siv'tz'ru" (Vayikra 25:11).

5) Ch. 23, v. 25: "VaavadTEM eis Hashem ElokeiCHEM uveirach es lach'm'CHO v'es mei'meCHO" - And you shall serve Hashem your G-d and He will bless your bread and your water - The verse begins in the plural form and ends in the singular.



Perhaps the default is selling, as this is the first step, as one sells and it then becomes the property of the purchaser (even if technically both stages take place at once). Our verse's vantage point is purchasing because the Torah wants to make use of the word form "k'nioh." This not only has the connotation of purchasing, but also "creating," as per the verse, "Ha'lo hu ovicho ko'necho" (Dvorim 32:6). The slave who is purchased is one who stole and has no money to pay back. He is sold as a slave to become rehabilitated, and to be able to reenter into society as a useful creative person. The Torah is telling the purchaser, "ki sinkeh," when you will create and rehabilitate the person you are purchasing. (Nirreh li)


Rashi answers this question with an halachic consequence, that the master is held responsible to sustain the slave's wife as well.

Tiferes Y'honoson answers in a psychological manner. A slave is at the beck and call of his master 24 hours a day. As a husband he would have been available for the needs of his wife and children. Thus during his servitude his wife and children are indirectly enslaved as well, somewhat losing a husband and father. When he goes out free, so does his wife (and children, see Vayikra 25:41).


We can categorize intentional murder on two levels, premeditated and not premeditated. Obviously, premeditated is a more heinous crime, even though the Torah does not prescribe a greater punishment. Verse 14 clearly discusses premeditated murder, "V'chi yozid," - when one schemes, "v'ormoh," with cunning. Our verse, not mentioning these, is involved with somewhat spontaneous murder. Although there is no difference in beis din, nevertheless, the Torah surely wants to teach us a value system. This is why the Torah then jumps to accidental killing, which surely is a less severe crime. Finally, we have the premeditated crime, where the Torah adds that he is even removed from the altar. Although the same is true of the spontaneous murder, by mentioning it here and not there we receive the message of different levels of severity. (Toldos Yitzchok)

It would seem logical for the Torah to grade these three levels in sequence of unintentional, spontaneous intentional, and finally premeditated. It is not clear according to this answer why this was not done. Perhaps, by intervening with "shogeg" the Torah teaches us that there is an immense difference between the two intentional acts.


The Gaon of Rogatchov explains that during the "shmitoh" year a field usually remains in the hands of one owner, hence the commands are in the singular form. During the "yoveil" year, on Yom Kipur, the ownership of numerous fields changes hands, as the fields that were sold during the past 49 years are returned to their original owners. Since there are two people involved, the prohibitions are likewise expressed in the plural form. (Although from Rosh Hashonoh through Yom Kipur is not the time for any of the agricultural pursuits mentioned, sowing or harvesting, since the possibility of harvesting exists, the Torah expresses all activities in the plural form.) Alternatively, the gemara Arochin 32b says that "yoveil" is only in affect when all the tribes reside in Eretz Yisroel. Therefore its prohibitions are in the plural form. Rashi on the gemara Gitin 36a d.h. "Bishvi'is" in his second approach posits that "shmitoh" is incumbent upon a ben Yisroel residing in Eretz Yisroel even if he is the one and only ben Yisroel living there. Therefore its commands are expressed in the singular form. (Pardes Yoseif)


Serving Hashem can be classified in two areas, through spiritual activities, such as doing mitzvos, prayer, and learning, and through properly channeling our physical self-sustaining activities, i.e. eating and drinking.

It is obvious that the former is simpler to execute with the correct intentions, as the activities are intrinsically mitzvoh based. The latter activities are much harder to bring totally into the realm of mitzvoh, as they are natural human pursuits. To eat and drink only to keep ourselves healthy, alert, and strong to serve Hashem are daunting tasks. Thus our verse begins in the plural when mentioning "vaavadtem," as many can do this properly. However, when it comes to "lechem" and "mayim," eating and drinking "l'shem Shomayim," only unique outstanding individuals will fulfill this properly. (Rabbi Gedalioh Aharon of Linitz)



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

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