FEBRUARY 8-9, 2002 27 SHEBAT 5762
"An animal that is torn apart may not be eaten; instead you shall throw it to the dog" (Shemot 22:30)
The Torah teaches us that if an owner of livestock finds a torn animal amongst his herd it is a terefa, unkosher. Since it died without shehitah, ritual slaughtering, it may not be eaten. The owner should take the dead animal and give it to his dog. The commentary, Da'at Zekenim, sees an important moral lesson in this command.
Dogs were commonly used as guards against attacking animals such as wolves and lions. A person's first reaction when he finds his cattle killed by a wild animal would very possibly be anger at his dog, for not having fended off the wild animals.
The Torah tells him to react in the opposite manner. It is specifically when one finds his cattle killed that he should appreciate all the other times he found everything in order. No doubt the dog risked its life previously to protect the livestock successfully until now. The practical application of this lesson is obvious. When feeling disappointed with the performance of a family member, we should focus on appreciating all the previous times when things were done properly.
If the wife doesn't have dinner, if the husband forgets to do his errand, if the child misbehaves or didn't do well in school, or if your boss is not nice, remember and appreciate all the times that things went well. Rabbi Avigdor Miller z"l would go one step further. If one gets hurt, thank Hashem for all the times you didn't get hurt. We have a lot to be grateful for to Hashem and to our fellow man. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Then hear I will hear his cry" (Shemot 22:22)
The Torah warns us not to afflict a widow or orphan, but the wording used is all double. "If afflict you will afflict him, then hear I will hear his cry, and answer I will answer him." Very strange! The Kotzker Rebbe says that any time someone who is an unfortunate is in distress, he right away imagines that his problem now is due to his being an unfortunate. For example, if a widow or orphan is afflicted, he or she feels that if the husband or father would be alive this would never happen. This brings out their pain on the loss of their loved one, and they begin to cry twice, once for the present affliction and once for the previous loss. And in turn Hashem says He will answer them twice, as if to say that He will consider that the present affliction also caused the previous one. So every affliction to those less fortunate is really a double one. How frightening! How careful must we be not only with widows and orphans but also with those who are downtrodden or have problems that weigh them down. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"When you will lend money to my people, to the poor person who is with you..." (Shemot 22:24)
Perashat Mishpatim immediately follows Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah to the Jewish nation. This perashah contains more than fifty-six misvot, all of which are categorized as misvot ben adam lahabero, misvot that guide us in our dealings with others. Following Matan Torah, Hashem chose to teach in detail specifically these misvot, according them the importance of first place.
Lending money to people in need is one of these misvot. Rashi on the above verse explains the phrase "the poor person who is with you" to mean that the lender should first view himself as though he is the poor person, and only then give the loan.
Rav Yerucham Levovitz elaborates on this idea. A doctor must undergo rigorous training in order to qualify for his title. He must have hands-on experience prior to actually practicing medicine; he must explore the human skeleton as possible only on a corpse. All this is necessary in order to become an expert in the field of medicine. Similarly, a person may wish to become an expert in the field of halachah, Jewish law. Particularly in the area dealing with misvot ben adam lahabero, commandments governing man's interaction with others, one must have "hands-on" experience in order to gain expertise. For in this field, how can one intellectually understand the Torah's laws and properly carry them out without the feeling, the empathy, for one's fellow man? To become knowledgeable in these misvot, one's heart must beat with immeasurable love for each person in Am Yisrael.
A story is told about a Rabbi who went to many homes to collect money for the poor. On one wintry day, upon arriving at the home of a wealthy person, the Rabbi requested that the entrance door remain open. A few moments passed, and yet the Rabbi seemed oblivious to the frosty air entering the gracious home. Even once he was settled, the Rabbi did not request that the door be closed, despite the obvious cold. Eventually, as it did not seem that the Rabbi had any notion of allowing the door to be shut, the host perplexedly asked: "Rabbi, excuse me for questioning, but why do you insist on keeping the door open in this freezing weather?" The Rabbi responded: "Surely this is how cold the poor, for whom I am collecting, must feel. I wanted you to feel their pain, their agony, in order to gain an understanding of their plight." With that explanation, and with that ability to now empathize, the host wrote out a larger check than he ever intended. Our Sages (Sanhedrin 104b) relate a story about Rabban Gamliel. His neighbor's son had died, and the cries of the grieving mother reached his ears at night. Upon hearing her cries, Rabban Gamliel too, would sit and cry...until his eyelashes fell out from crying! The Rabbi so acutely felt her pain that he cried as if he were mourning over his own child.
If we hope to fulfill all the laws detailed in Perashat Mishpatim, we must put ourselves in our fellowman's situation before we take action. We must feel what he feels, and then we will be able to perform these misvot in the proper manner. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi David Maslaton
"And he who strikes his father or mother shall surely be put to death, and he who kidnaps a man and sells him and he was found in his hand shall surely be put to death, and he who curses his father or mother shall surely be put to death" (Shemot 21:15-17)
Parents' relationships with their children should be ones of friendship and love. Even when disciplinary measures are required, the parents' reaction must be a reflection of a never-ceasing, immutable love. Harshness must be employed only periodically to create a healthy balanced atmosphere inherent in the education process. Firmness must be tempered with kindness and serene love, so that the child's intellect and ability to reciprocate love is properly developed.
During a child's formative years, the parents should grow with the child. The friendship between parent and child should become more intense from year to year. As children grow, they thrive on encouragement, recognition and praise. Indeed, parents should learn to overlook the small faults of their children. As Rabbi Shimon Schwab remarks, "Parents should never exert parental pressure like wardens in a prison, allowing their charges no freedom."
Rabbi Schwab applies this idea to the above verses. The Torah mentions two tragic sins which a child may transgress against his parents: striking or cursing one's parents. The presentation of these two transgressions, however, is interrupted by a third sin: a kidnapper who steals a human being and enslaves him. Rabbi Schwab suggests that this interpretation is deliberately designed to allude to the psychological causes which may induce a son or a daughter to stoop so low as to strike or curse his/her parents. Although not a justification for this dreadful act, it is an admonishment to parents not to treat their children like hostages. They should not stifle their child's initiative, berate them for every little thing they do wrong or suppress their youthful aspirations. Parents who act as slave drivers might one day instigate their children's insurrection against them, resulting in tragedy and disaster. (Peninim on the Torah)
Moshe was on Har Sinai for forty days and forty nights, learning the Torah from Hashem. It is obviously beyond the ability of even the greatest contemporary man to memorize all of the details of the Torah in forty days. Moshe did this while he also learned how to observe the misvot, including the specifics of the construction of the Mishkan and its vessels, which are not written in the Torah. Consequently, we may deduce that the process of study which transpired on the mountain was nothing less than a miraculous feat.
The question thus arises: Why were the forty days an integral part of this learning process? This great wisdom could have been miraculously imparted to Moshe in a single moment. We may derive from here that Moshe's effort was required. Forty days of extreme mental intensity were mandated. Only after this unique endeavor was he rewarded with miraculous success. This procedure was specifically intended to serve as a model for future successful study. Effort is always required, no matter how unique the talents of the individual. Hashem rewards effort with success. (Peninim al HaTorah)
This week's Haftarah: Melachim II 11:17 - 12:17.
The regular haftarah for Parashat Mishpatim is from Yirmiyahu. It tells about King Sidkiyahu, who proclaimed freedom for all Jewish slaves. The first concept in the perashah also deals with the laws regarding Jewish slaves.
However, since this week is Shabbat Shekalim, and a special maftir is read, the regular haftarah is not read. Instead, we read about King Yehoyada, a righteous king who did away with the idols that the people had been worshiping. He instituted a system to collect funds for the repair and fortification of the Bet Hamikdash. This section contains a reference to the half-shekel contribution that each person was required to bring every year, which is also the theme of the special maftir which we read this week.
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