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Parshat Mishpatim

Pop Quiz: What does the Torah suggest a person do with the meat of a kosher animal that was not slaughtered?

by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"And these are the laws that you shall place before them" (Shemot 21:1)

From the word 'lifnehem' - before them, Rashi tells us that we must bring disputes before our court system; that is, one must go to Bet Din rather than go to secular courts. This is indeed the halachah that we may not go to a secular court to adjudicate a case between two Jews. It may seem to us that this would only apply when the power of Bet Din was absolute, like in the old days, whereas nowadays, when Bet Din is limited in enforcing its laws, we should not have to go to Bet Din. This is incorrect. We must always go to Bet Din first and only when Bet Din allows us to go to civil courts do we have the right to do so. It is considered a Hilul Hashem and a denigration of the Torah if we go to civil courts rather than Bet Din. We should hopefully never have to go to court for any reason, but if it ever becomes necessary, we would be doing a great misvah by following the halachah and going to Jewish courts. We will be upholding the Torah and making a Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying the Name of Hashem, which is certain to impact favorably on the outcome of the case. Shabbat Shalom.

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And on the seventh day you shall stop work so that your ox and donkey may rest" (Shemot 23:12)

The Torah in this week's perashah seems to be saying that we stop working on Shabbat in order that our animals be given a day off! But we know that the main purpose for resting our bodies on Shabbat is for spiritual purposes.

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch explains that the Torah is not telling us the reason why we stop working, but is really coming to explain how the Jewish day of rest differs from that of the gentiles. That difference can be seen from the fact that our animals rest. In the secular world, the main idea is to rest physically, to have a day of leisure. For that purpose, their animals and servants would be ready to serve their every need in order that they do not exert themselves. Their beasts of burden should stand ready to carry them, to take them wherever they wish to go so they don't have to walk.

Our Shabbat is a day to recognize Hashem's finishing of creation of the world. We too should view it as if all of our work is done. We don't have anything left to do. There is nowhere that we really have to go. Our animals, and our cars, simply are not needed. Now our day is completely available to think about the spiritual side of life. How fortunate we are to have the Shabbat, the greatest gift of all.
Shabbat Shalom.


"If a person steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay five oxen for an ox and four sheep for the sheep" (Shemot 21:37)

Rashi cites that the reason the thief pays less for a sheep is because when he steals it he has to carry it on his shoulders to run away faster. Running with a sheep on one's shoulders in public is embarrassing, and this embarrassment is a partial punishment in itself.

Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm commented that this is amazing. A thief is usually not the most sensitive of people. Even if he is a very coarse person, the slight embarrassment he experiences lightens the punishment he receives for his crime. All the more so, if you suffer embarrassment or humiliation for doing a good deed, that suffering greatly elevates your action, and your reward will be very great.

Some people are greatly afraid of the disapproval of others. Even if they are doing something that is very worthwhile and meritorious, they feel suffering if others say anything mocking. If someone were to offer you a large sum of money if anyone would insult you, you would react with joy to that insult. Similarly, when you are performing a misvah, any insults or put-downs greatly increase your merit and reward. This awareness will enable you to react with joy to any difficulties with other people that arise when you are doing good deeds. (Growth Through Torah)

Answer to pop quiz: Throw it to the dogs.

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